December 14, 2012 Articles

Defense in the Age of Social Media

In this brave new digital world, attorneys are increasingly turning to social-networking sites such as Facebook to prove opponents' claims are baseless or exaggerated

By Angela C. de Cespedes Wenke

What can you do when faced with a party who is exaggerating injuries and limitations in an attempt to bolster a damage claim? In recent years, we have witnessed the advent of new, highly effective tools that are allies in combating this occurrence—social media and freely available online content.

As recently as 10 years ago, a private investigator and claims index searches were a lawyer’s best weapon in attempting to uncover exaggerated injury, physical limitation, and damage claims. Only five years ago, a tech-savvy lawyer could scour the Internet and hope to get lucky online. Today, however, to the delight of trial lawyers like myself, there is a whole new world. It is a world in which baseless or exaggerated claims by parties can be exposed, in many cases fully, as the result of items posted on social-media sites and a variety of other free avenues for online research—Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google, and Google Earth, to name just a few. Data and online content uncovered on such websites have led to favorable resolutions and the dismissal of a variety of different matters in which clients faced genuine liability concerns in the premises liability, product liability, personal injury, and business litigation arenas. In many cases, these results have been achieved without the need for lengthy discovery, motions to compel, or even subpoenas, given the gravity of the data uncovered.

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