Social Media as Evidence in Business Litigation Trials
Buffington Law Firm’s Orange County business and trust litigation attorneys have engaged in many trials concerning business, real estate, and trust disputes over the past 18 years. We have noticed certain trends concerning the types of evidence that have been important to the outcomes of these cases.
Social Media such as Facebook and Twitter are becoming important sources of evidence in trials. Firstly, understand that posts on Facebook and “tweets” on Twitter, to name two popular examples of Social Media, are usually admissible as evidence at trial against the person posting them. This evidence tends to be important. At trial “the written word” is one of the very most persuasive forms of evidence. People argue over conversations that they had, promises that they made, or the general substance of communications. Witness testimony is often a chancy and marginal type of evidence because there is a risk that the judge or jury will simply not believe the witness. By contrast, a post on Facebook or a “tweet” on Twitter is something that the jury or judge can see directly. And people usually believe that they can evaluate directly, unfiltered by what they may perceive as self-serving testimony after the fact.
Social media posts can be lethal to litigation. If you are involved in a business, trust, or other civil dispute, we advise you to never discuss this dispute on social media. Never. People who are involved in a situation that is heading towards litigation are often under stress, and may post things that they do not mean, or which will sound different in court than they realize. It may make you feel better to post or tweet about your situation, but it is never a good idea to do so. Social media posts never really go away –they have a relentless habit of turning up as evidence in litigation.
In a recent high-dollar employment law case defended by Buffington Law Firm, the Plaintiff, a business account executive, contended that he had not resigned from his job in a meeting between himself and his supervisor–this was a key issue in his case. He testified under oath at Arbitration to this effect. Unfortunately, our side was able to present a Facebook post by him, made within hours of this meeting, that seemed to clearly contradict his story. In ruling against the executive, the Arbitrator (a retired Superior Court judge) specifically cited to this Facebook post in rendering a Defense decision.
Email is also a lethal source of evidence in many cases. Buffington Law Firm’s business trial lawyers have tried many cases in which email chains constituted the major source of evidence. Like social media, email is something that the trier of fact can see directly and evaluate directly. And email has a nasty habit of looking different in court that the sender intended. Rarely for the better. See our article “Email Is Death”.
If you are involved in a situation that appears to have the potential to turn into litigation there are better ways to relieve stress than posting on social media. Call Buffington Law Firm for a no-obligation free legal consultation. In this meeting you will speak directly with one of our experienced business or trust trial attorneys and we can advise you as to your options. Call us today!