Personal injury claimants in British Columbia should be aware of how the Courts deal with photos and videos kept at their Facebook accounts. As a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver since 1995 I have had to address privacy concerns for my personal injury clients in almost every case. With the evolution of social media, insurance companies know more than ever about injury claimant’s personal life and will often get photos and even videos of the claimant before they have a chance to change their privacy settings. Take a quick look at at my Facebook in the Courtroom video.
There are currently very few court cases dealing with Facebook in the context of personal injury claims in British Columbia. I did recently review a case in which the court refused to order disclosure of a claimants Facebook account information. However, in the case Fric v. Gershman, 2012 BCSC 614, the Court came to the opposite conclusion.
In the Fric case the litigant was claiming for damages resulting from injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident in British Columbia.  At the time of the accident, the claimant was a first year law student at the University of Victoria.  The claimant’s  vehicle was rear-ended which caused her injuries including chronic severe headaches, injury and pain to the upper back, and neck pain. After the accident, despite her injury, the claimant engaged in various activities including trips to Thailand, Fiji, Australia, Montana, Florida, California, Seattle, Portland, and Cuba.
The claimant had some 890 Facebook “friends” who did have access to the private content of the Facebook profile. The Facebook network was used by the claimant for both personal and professional interactions. Her Facebook profile stored 759 digital photographs and one video and the claimant did not disclose the precise nature or subject matter of the Facebook photographs or video. In addition, the claimant was in possession of approximately 12,000 photographs. It was not clear on the evidence whether those photographs were stored electronically or in an old-fashioned album.
Despite her injury the claimant continued to engage in sports and other physical activities since the accident, including hiking, scuba diving and wakeboarding albeit with some pain or discomfort.
After considering many case authorities, the Court concluded that some of the claimant’s photographs, including those held on the private Facebook profile, must be disclosed. In making the order Master Bouck stated,

[70]   In my view, the appropriate relief is to order Ms. Fric to produce an amended list of documents which identifies the photographs and video in her possession and control in which in which she is featured:

1.  participating in the December 2008 Law Games; and

2.  on a vacation taken since November 18, 2008.

[71]         The photographs should be identified by location, date and time (if this information is available to the plaintiff). The defence may then choose to either inspect the photographs (electronically or otherwise) and/or pay for the photographs’ duplication.

[72]         Before disclosure, the plaintiff may edit the photographs to protect the privacy of other individuals appearing in those photographs.

[73]         The amended list is to be provided to the defence by no later than June 30, 2012, unless otherwise agreed.

[74]         It is impossible to say whether this exercise will require the plaintiff to review all of her 12,000 photographs, but it seems doubtful. Only the plaintiff knows how many photographs in her possession fall within the defined categories. As with any document disclosure, plaintiff’s counsel will be involved in the review and no doubt provide any necessary guidance.

[75]         The plaintiff is not obliged to include commentary from the Facebook web‑site. If such commentary exists, the probative value of this information is outweighed by the competing interest of protecting the private thoughts of the plaintiff and third parties: Dosanjh v. Leblanc.

 Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A., LL.B.

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