- October 20, 2011
- Posted by: Seth Heyman
- Categories: Business Law, Internet Law
Here’s an inescapable fact of life in the 21st century: unless you’re a hermit or an antisocial misfit, you or someone you’re close to has some kind of social media account, either Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or one of the many others that are sprouting up like mushrooms after an autumn rain.
Here’s another inescapable fact: in an increasingly litigious society like ours, if you’re a business owner, you’re a potential target for litigation. That being the case, what you say on the Internet can come back to haunt you in the courtroom.
For example, in a recent case in Texas, the Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of an RV he recently purchased, claiming that manufacturing defects rendered the vehicle unusable. During the trial, the defendants presented the jury with a photo posted on the Plaintiff’s MySpace account of his entire family posing in front of that selfsame RV while on vacation. As it turns out, the photo was posted eight months after the lawsuit was filed. With this damning piece of evidence in hand, the jury took less than 15 minutes to deliver a defense verdict. For me, it’s difficult to determine which aspect of this case was more astonishing: the plaintiff’s stupidity, or the fact that he still had a MySpace account.
In another example, a key witness in a case, who presented himself as a person of “honor, integrity, and fairness,” gave important testimony during a deposition. The defense attorney then presented the witness with a quote taken from his Facebook page, which stated “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Needless to say, this didn’t do much to support the witness’s credibility.
The lesson here is clear: everyone should carefully examine the photos and statements they post online. This advice is especially important for business owners and managers, who should view all postings through the eyes of someone who may be interested in suing you. Does anything make you look less than an honest, trustworthy member of the business community? Are there any comments about your prodigious appetite for recreational pharmaceuticals, or photos of you passed out in a car after a hard night’s clubbing, Lindsey Lohan style?
Think about how a jury may view any photo or comment, and if anyone might draw a negative conclusion about your honesty, integrity, or mental fitness, do yourself a favor and get take it down.