Like the rest of America, Virginia is exploding with “social media” – from YouTube to Facebook to Myspace to Twitter to LinkedIn to Lester v. Alliance Concrete to you-name-it! Most of the younger generation and increasing numbers of the older generation are expressing themselves online – including after being victims of car accidents, medical malpractice, assault and battery, and other personal injury.
In the 2010 brain injury case of Gagnon v. Burns, No. CL08-572 in Circuit Court for Gloucester County, Virginia, which now is on appeal before the Virginia Supreme Court, Nos. 110754 and 110767; social media was a would-be cornerstone of the defense. Defendants introduced into evidence various printouts they claimed were threatening profane communications and image posting of Plaintiff on Myspace.com.
Ultimately, the jury was not persuaded by the social media claimed in Gagnon. But like some other personal injury and wrongful death victims, Plaintiff was put to substantial expense and risk in proving that he was not responsible for the supposed Myspace.com materials.
Extensive expert computer forensics costing Plaintiff over $10,000.00 were required to show that the supposed Myspace communications and image posting of the brain injury Plaintiff actually were created by others. Fortunately for Plaintiff in Gagnon (but unfortunately for plaintiffs in other personal injury and wrongful death cases), social media messages and postings leave trails of evidence on hard-drives that usually are recoverable.
It always is important to be very careful about use of social media, particularly when one is victim of car accident, medical malpractice, other personal injury, or wrongful death. But as in Gagnon, it also may be important for victims to preserve and analyze hard-drives.