The Simplified
E-⁠Discovery Case Law Library
A collection of simple, easy to understand analyses and resources on e-⁠discovery case law.
Case shelved under Reasonableness

Does Deactivating a Facebook Account Constitute Spoliation?

Brown v. SSA Atlantic
S.D. Ga. March 16, 2021
Why This Case Is Important

As more information is stored on social media accounts, it’s imperative that legal teams ensure proper preservation of social media data. As this case shows, social media information has become a very common source for relevant data, which legal teams must have a plan for preserving.

Overview

In this personal injury case involving the plaintiff, an employee of the defendant, a truck driver, getting into a car crash. The plaintiff subsequently asserted tort claims against the defendant based on a theory of respondeat superior. The defendant moved for sanctions against the plaintiff for his “alleged spoliation of electronically stored evidence, specifically his social media accounts.

From the outset of this case, the two sides were “frustrated with each other.” The plaintiff misrepresented multiple times whether he had a Facebook account, how many Facebook accounts he had and if those accounts were activated pre- and post-accident. Based on this behavior the defendant wanted the plaintiff to be sanctioned for spoliation of the Facebook account data.

The plaintiff objects to the spoliation sanction and offered an alternative remedy of an information resolution before defendant files it’s motion. The plaintiff contended that the Facebook data may be retrievable. The defendant refused and motioned the court for spoliation sanctions.

Ruling
  • Court Denies Spoliation Motion. The court ruled against the defendant because there was no proof that the Facebook had been “irretrievably lost,” which is required under FRCP 37(e) to warrant spoliation sanctions.
  • No Clear Evidence of Spoliated Facebook Data. According to the court, it was “not clear that any evidence has been spoliated, as opposed to withheld.” The plaintiff only deactivated it’s Facebook accounts, not deleted.
  • Plaintiff Ordered to Produce Facebook Account Data. The court gave the plaintiff a deadline to produce the requested data and if the defendant concludes “that substantive information was, in fact, lost or destroyed because of the deactivation, it is free to renew its motion for spoliation sanctions.
Download Case Law PDF

Download the PDF version of this case law alert here.

Legal Analysis
On Brown v. SSA Atlantic
Hon. Andrew Peck (Ret.), Sr. Counsel, DLA Piper
BY
Hon. Andrew Peck (Ret.), Sr. Counsel, DLA Piper

Several lessons from this case: first, courts do not appreciate lawyers sniping at each other. Second, it is clear by now that relevant Facebook posts are discoverable, especially in Personal injury cases. Third, there is a difference between deactivating a Facebook account (which thus can be reinstated with no loss of data) and deleting the account. Finally, this is another example of courts relying on the Rule 26(g) certification as another source to remedy discovery violations.

Hon. Andrew Peck's Bio
return to case law library
Reasonableness room