"Private" Posts To Social Media Discoverable in Lawsuits?

January 04, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Every day millions of people log on to Facebook and MySpace to post pictures of adventures and everyday events, update friends on life's happenings, and express thoughts and feelings. While using these new online social media, most assume that since they selected "private" status for their accounts, and because they only share information and pictures with their friends and family, that those who are not meant to see this information won't. But this thinking may be flawed.

Consider the logistics of keeping private the sheer volume of information flowing from social-media sites. In its December 2010 selection of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg Person of the Year, Time Magazine cites daunting statistics:
- Facebook membership reached 550 billion this year (one of 12 people globally)
- Daily 700,000 new members join Facebook
- In November one-quarter of all U.S. page views were to Facebook
- Almost half of all Americans have Facebook accounts
- Facebook posts 100 million new pictures every day

Time's observation about online privacy is relevant to the topic of this article: "the Internet was built to move information around, not keep it in one place, and it tends to do what it was built to do." How realistic is it to think anything you post online even to a limited audience won't end up as evidence in a later lawsuit?

According to legal opinion pieces on FindLaw.com, if you are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, your comment and picture posts to social-media websites such as Facebook and MySpace may be discoverable as potential evidence by the other side, although jurisdictions are split on the issue. This may not be something you relish, whether you are bringing the suit or defending it.

New York Example

In Romano v. Steelcase Inc., a New York state personal injury plaintiff was compelled to produce "private" postings on Facebook and MySpace for discovery after the Supreme Court (trial court) in Suffolk County decided in September 2010 that the postings were "material and necessary" to the legal and factual issues surrounding the extent of her injury and how much it affected her enjoyment of life.

The defendant asked the court for access to Romano's postings because it believed the posted comments and photos could refute her injury claim and allegation that she had lost the enjoyment of life. The court agreed, noting that "the primary purpose" of social-media websites "is to enable people to share information about how they lead their social lives," and ruling that users have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" on social-media websites even when they choose more restricted privacy settings.

The court focused on the essence of a personal injury lawsuit. By filing, Kathleen Romano herself put her "physical condition in controversy." Interestingly, the opinion analyzed similar Canadian cases in light of New York's "liberal disclosure policy." The court also commented on both sites' warnings that whatever users post is at their own risk despite privacy settings.
California Federal Court Weighs In

The U.S. District Court in the Central District of California had a different view, holding in the May 2010 copyright case Crispin v. Christian Audigier, Inc., that the defendant case could not subpoena plaintiff's private postings on social-media websites. The court equated the privacy of a "friends only" access setting to that expected in an e-mail message, banking record or employment file. Had Buckley Crispin allowed his profile and posts to be viewed by "everyone," the court would have deemed the content truly public.

Reasonable Expectations

Remember, both Facebook and MySpace caution their users that the sites cannot guarantee the privacy of posted content. Indeed, common sense dictates that parents of American teenagers should already routinely warn their kids to remember that once something hits the Internet, the cat is out of the bag and that information may return to haunt. And that warning is just as important for adults, especially those involved in lawsuits that raise legal questions about physical, mental and emotional well being like personal injury suits and child custody matters.

While jurisdictions are currently split on what information posted to social-media websites is discoverable in a lawsuit, it is wise to remember Facebook's warning, "[y]ou post User Content ... on the Site at your own risk."

Article provided by Injury Law Center - Law Offices of Jack Bloxham

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11 Killed, 220 Injured in New Year's Holiday Crashes Investigated by Pennsylvania State Police

National Press Release  Back to Press Releases Index

11 Killed, 220 Injured in New Year's Holiday Crashes Investigated by Pennsylvania State Police

PR Newswire

Fatalities Increase Compared to Last Year, But Crashes and Injuries Decline

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 3, 2011, PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Eleven people were killed and 220 others were injured in the 693 crashes investigated by Pennsylvania State Police during the four-day New Year's holiday driving period, Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski announced today.

"Although the number of fatalities jumped from six to 11 compared to last year's holiday driving period, crashes decreased by nearly 39 percent and the number of people injured dropped almost 24 percent," Pawlowski said.

He said 76 of the crashes to which troopers responded from Dec. 30, 2010, through Jan. 2, 2011, were alcohol-related, including four crashes that resulted in a total of five deaths. Six of the 11 people who died in crashes were not wearing seat belts, he said.

Pawlowski said troopers made 267 arrests for driving under the influence and issued 4,012 speeding citations during the holiday period. State police also cited 458 persons for failure to wear seat belts and issued citations to 42 drivers for failing to restrain children properly in child safety seats.

During last year's four-day New Year's holiday driving period, six people were killed and 288 others were injured in 1,131 crashes investigated by state police.

The crash numbers cover only those incidents investigated by state police and do not include statistics on crashes to which other law-enforcement agencies responded.

For more information, visit www.psp.state.pa.us or call 717-783-5556.

Media contact: Lt. Myra Taylor, Jack J. Lewis, 717-783-5556

SOURCE Pennsylvania State Police Department

Read more: 11 Killed, 220 Injured in New Year's Holiday Crashes Investigated by Pennsylvania State Police

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Dead blackbirds fall into Beebe city limits on New Year’s Eve

Dead blackbirds fall into Beebe city limits on New Year’s Eve

Date 01/01/2011

BEEBE – Last night, ringing in the New Year took on a whole different meaning for the citizens of Beebe. Beginning at around 11:30 p.m., enforcement officers with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began getting reports of dead black birds falling from the sky in the city limits of Beebe.

Officers estimated that over 1,000 birds had fallen out of the sky over the city before midnight. Most of the birds were dead, but some were still alive when officers arrived. The blackbirds fell over a one-mile area in the city. AGFC wildlife officer Robby King responded to the reports and found hundreds of birds. “Shortly after I arrived there were still birds falling from the sky,” King said. King collected about 65 dead birds that will be sent to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.

The AGFC has flown over the area to gauge the scope of the event. There were no other birds found outside of the initial area.

AGFC ornithologist Karen Rowe said that strange events similar to this one have occurred a number of times across the globe. “Test results usually were inconclusive, but the birds showed physical trauma and that the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail,” Rowe said.

Another scenario may have been that New Year’s Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area may have startled the birds from their roost. The birds may have died from stress.

Rowe said that it didn’t appear as though the birds died of any poisoning or other event. “Since it only involved a flock of blackbirds and only involved them falling out of the sky it is unlikely they were poisoned, but a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds died from trauma or toxin,” she said. Testing will begin on Monday.

The City of Beebe has hired U.S. Environmental Services to begin the cleanup and dispose of the dead birds. The environmental firm will go door-to-door to pick up the birds that are still in yards and on roof tops

Preliminary necropsies on the dead birds in Arkansas "showed trauma," said Karen Rowe, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ornithologist. "The birds obviously hit something very hard and had hemorrhages." Beyond that, all the birds were healthy.

Among the speculation for the cause of death is that loud noises, perhaps from fireworks, frightened the birds and sent them crashing into buildings and other obstacles

Hundreds more birds found dead, this time in Louisiana

 Three days after thousands of blackbirds were found dead in Arkansas, some 500 red-winged-blackbirds and starlings were found dead along a quarter-mile stretch of highway in Louisiana, hundreds of miles to the south. The latest dead birds were found Monday near Labarre, about 300 miles south of Beebe, Ark., where thousands of birds fell from the sky on New Year's Eve.

State biologists are sending some of the Louisiana birds for testing in Georgia and Wiscons


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The Latest Stats Show a Continuing decline in crime

The Latest Stats
Show a Continuing Decline in Crime


We’ve just released our first peek into crime in 2010—with a snapshot of the first six months of the year.

The early returns are encouraging. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January-June, 2010, the nation saw a 6.2 percent decrease in the number of reported violent crimes and a 2.8 percent decrease in the number of reported property crimes compared to data for the same time frame during 2009.

The report specifically covers the violent crimes of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault…and the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. It also includes arson, which is considered a property crime but is tracked separately for this report.

UCR Data Tool screenshot

Check crime rates in your area using the
ucr data tool">UCR Data Tool.

Some of the preliminary findings:

  • Reported incidents of violent crime as a whole decreased in all four regions of the country—falling 0.2 percent in the Northeast, 7.2 percent in the Midwest, 7.8 percent in the South, and 7.2 percent in the West.
  • In the Northeast, reported incidents of murder were up 5.7 percent, forcible rapes were up 1.1 percent, and aggravated assaults were up 2.4 percent.
  • Reported incidents of property crime as a whole declined in all four regions of the country—dropping 0.2 percent in the Northeast, 2.5 percent in the Midwest, 3.6 percent in the South, and 3.1 percent in the West.
  • In the Northeast, however, reported incidents of burglary rose 3.9 percent.
  • Population-wise, cities with 500,000 to 999,999 residents saw the greatest decline in reported violent crimes (8.3 percent) and in property crimes (4.8 percent).

Since 1930, the FBI has been tasked with collecting, publishing, and archiving reliable uniform crime statistics for the nation. Our hope is that this report will continue to assist community leaders and law enforcement managers with formulating crime-fighting and crime prevention strategies.

Last month, we released a new tool to help these leaders and others analyze crime statistics over the past half-century. The UCR Data Tool, as it’s called, enables users to perform queries on custom variables like year, agency, and type of offense. Until now, making comparisons of our crime data required searching the annual reports and then manually crunching the numbers. The data from the just-released report is not included in the new tool, since it is preliminary and represents only a partial year.

Although many of the crimes reported in our UCR statistics fall primarily under state and local jurisdiction, the FBI continues to work closely with our law enforcement partners on numerous joint task forces around the country and to offer a range of services and support. A few examples include:

- Information services like the National Crime Information Center, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx);

- Fingerprint and other types of forensic identification services, such as our Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the Combined DNA Index System.

As always, we caution against drawing conclusions about specific locations by making direct comparisons between cities. Valid assessments are only possible by carefully analyzing the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.

The full-year Crime in the United States, 2010 report will be released next year.


- Press release

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FBI Releases Preliminary Semiannual Crime Statistics for 2010

FBI Releases Preliminary Semiannual Crime Statistics for 2010

Washington, D.C. December 20, 2010
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691
— filed under: Press Release

According to the FBI's Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report released today, the nation experienced a 6.2 percent decrease in the number of violent crimes and a 2.8 percent decline in the number of property crimes from January to June 2010, when compared with data from the same time period in the prior year. The report is based on information from more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies that submitted three to six comparable months of data to the FBI during the first six months of both 2009 and 2010.

Violent Crime

  • From January to June 2010, all four of the offense types in the violent crime category declined nationwide when compared with data for the same time period in 2009. Robbery fell 10.7 percent, murder was down 7.1 percent, forcible rape declined 6.2 percent, and aggravated assault decreased 3.9 percent.
  • Violent crime declined in all city groups, with the largest decrease, 8.3 percent, in cities with populations of 500,000 to 999,999 persons. Violent crime was also down in both nonmetropolitan and metropolitan counties, with declines of 7.6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.
  • For the six-month comparison period, violent crime fell in all four regions of the nation: 7.8 percent in the South, 7.2 percent in both the Midwest and the West, and 0.2 percent in the Northeast. The Northeast was the only region to experience an increase in murders, 5.7 percent. Murder declined in the other three regions—12.0 percent in the South, 7.1 percent in the West, and 6.3 percent in the Midwest.

Property Crime

  • Property crime was down 2.8 percent nationwide for the first six months of 2010 compared with data for the same months of 2009. Motor vehicle theft dropped 9.7 percent, larceny-theft fell 2.3 percent, and burglary decreased 1.4 percent.
  • Property crime declined in all four regions, with a 3.6 percent decrease in the South, a 3.1 percent decrease in the West, a 2.5 decrease in the Midwest, and a 0.2 percent decrease in the Northeast.
  • Cities with 500,000 to 999,999 inhabitants experienced a 4.8 percent drop in property crime. In nonmetropolitan counties, property crime increased 1.0 percent, but it decreased 2.4 percent in metropolitan counties.


Arson offenses, which are tracked separately from other property crimes, decreased 14.6 percent nationwide. By population group, the largest decline in the number of arson offenses (17.2 percent) was in cities with populations of 50,000 to 99,999 residents. Arson also fell in metropolitan counties by 21.6 percent and in nonmetropolitan counties by 19.4 percent. Law enforcement agencies in all four regions reported fewer arsons, including declines of 17.6 percent in the West, 14.3 percent in the South, 12.6 percent in the Midwest, and 10.2 percent in the Northeast.

Note: Caution against Ranking—When the FBI publishes crime data in its Uniform Crime Reports throughout the year, some entities use the figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, tribal area, or region. Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units from cities, metropolitan areas, states, or colleges or universities solely on the basis of their population coverage or student enrollment.

The complete Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January to June 2010, is available exclusively at http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats.

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