Anita Pitock and Jennifer Ellis Address Social Media in Litigation
Social media is a huge issue in personal injury and medical malpractice litigation. Few people appreciate this more than Anita Pitock, a medical malpractice attorney and Jennifer Ellis, a legal ethics lawyer who is nationally recognized for her knowledge of social media issues and the law. If your lawyer does not understand the risks and benefits of social media in your case, she is behind the times.
Anita and Jennifer spent an hour together with a group of lawyers at the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Practice Section Conference to explain the issues surrounding social media, and to show those attorneys how they can research and use social media when representing their clients.
- Anita addressed how she guides her medical malpractice and nursing home abuse clients, along with the types of questions she asks defendants during the discovery process. She also explained how she uses social media when questioning witnesses in court.
- Jennifer addressed the technical and ethical issues surrounding social media use. She explored spoliation (destruction of evidence) along with how to appropriately access and preserve any relevant social media content.
- Together, along with incoming Pennsylvania Bar Association President, Sara Austin, Anita and Jennifer made certain that the Pennsylvania attorneys in the audience understood how to protect their clients when it comes to use of social media in court.
Understand the Potential Impact of Social Media on your Case
It is important for plaintiffs in personal injury cases to understand how severely social media can harm their cases. Opposing counsel in all sorts of litigation look at Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and all other accounts to see if they can find any information that will hurt the plaintiff. If they can find any information that suggests the plaintiff has been dishonest in her claim, a court is likely to grant discovery of the account. Discovery can mean the plaintiff has to provide a copy of her entire account or her username and password. It is also important to understand that anything on social media can hurt a case, not just content that is directly related to the claim. If a plaintiff is stating that she is unhappy and having a difficult life, but her Facebook account shows her smiling and happy, the defense will use that information against her. Of course, no matter our lives, there are moments when we will be happy, but the defense will still use that moment of happiness against the plaintiff, if she can. This is why it is critical that your lawyer knows how to respond when the defense tries to use your social media postings.
Attorneys Must be Knowledgeable on Social Media
It is important for all attorneys to understand that they need to review their clients’ and opposing clients’ social media accounts to find information that might hurt or help their clients’ cases. It is also important for attorneys to explain to their clients that they may not delete content in their accounts without preserving it first. In addition, clients need to be careful who they friend on social media sites. While attorneys are not allowed to connect with represented parties, there are occasions when you will run into a lawyer who doesn’t know the ethical rules or who chooses to disregard them.
Make sure, before you hire a lawyer, that she appreciates both the risks and rewards of social media and is able to properly advise you about how your online activities can impact your legal claims. Also, check and see if she knows how to actually respond if the defense tries to use your social media content against you.