Monday, September 20, 2010
The question of whether and to what extent social networking evidence should be admissible is relatively new and has led to some interesting initial cases addressed on this blog (see here, here, here, here, and here). Now, it has led to an interesting article as well: Social Networking and Workers' Compensation Law at the Crossroads (forthcoming, Pace Law Review) by Professor Gregory M. Duhl of the William Mitchell College of Law and Jaclyn S. Millner of Fitch, Johnson, Larson & Held.
According to the abstract:
Over the past decade, social networking has increasingly influenced the practice of both civil and criminal law. One way to illustrate those influences is to examine a “system” of laws and the parties and lawyers in that system. In this article, we examine how social networking has influenced workers’ compensation law, looking at, in particular, the intersection of professional responsibility, discovery, privacy, and evidence with social networking in state workers’ compensation systems.
Workers’ compensation laws are no-fault insurance systems designed to resolve disputes efficiently. Consequently, the rules of evidence are often more relaxed and the rules of discovery often more restricted than in state and federal court litigation. The flexible and self-contained structure of workers’ compensation systems provides an ideal backdrop against which to examine how information from social networking sites can be used as evidence to resolve civil disputes.
A state’s workers’ compensation system should use the rules that have traditionally applied to non-electronic information as a starting point to address issues arising from lawyers gathering and introducing into evidence information stored on social networking sites. At the same time, because of the efficiency of workers’ compensation law and the large discretion vested in its judges, workers’ compensation systems have the potential to be laboratories for new technologies and how they can be used in the resolution of disputes, both inside and outside of workers' compensation.
As the authors note in their conclusion,
The lawyers, judges, insurance companies, and parties within workers‘ compensation systems will increasingly confront the discovery, privacy, professional responsibility, and evidentiary issues that arise at the crossroads of workers‘ compensation law and social networking. In the absence of case law and ethics opinions that discuss these exact issues, this article starts with the rules that govern workers‘ compensation cases, and discusses how they might apply to lawyers gathering, producing, and introducing evidence from social networking sites.