We must direct your attention to the brand new opinion in In re Christus Health Southeast Texas, No. 09–12–00538–CV (Tex. App. – Beaumont March 28, 2013, orig. proceeding) (per curiam) [PDF], in which the propriety of Facebook discovery is explored. This suit in question is a wrongful death and survival action arising from a 2009 cardiac catheterization. The Plaintiffs’ decedent died the day after the procedure. Two requests for production were at issue in the mandamus proceeding, although we’re chiefly concerned with the second one, which asked the Plaintiffs “to produce copies of any postings pertaining to Arthur or Arthur’s death on any social media site.”
The court described the Plaintiffs’ objection to the social media discovery request as follows:
They also objected to Christus’s request for copies of postings on any social media sites, claiming the request was “an invasion of privacy and any such information would be unreliable and constitute hearsay and a fishing expedition and this request is meant for the purpose of harassment.” We note that the Lowes presented no evidence the discovery requests at issue in this proceeding were burdensome, asserted no claim that the information sought to be discovered was privileged, nor did they provide the trial court with a privilege log.
The defense filed a motion to compel, which was denied. Accordingly, the defense then sought a writ of mandamus.
In denying the defendant’s petition for writ of mandamus, the court noted:
The other request at issue in this mandamus proceeding asked the Lowes to produce “[p]hotocopies of postings by any plaintiff pertaining to Arthur Lowe or his death on Facebook or any other social media site.” The Lowes objected that “[s]uch request is an invasion of privacy and any such information would be unreliable and constitute hearsay and a fishing expedition and this request is meant for the purpose of harassment.”
With respect to request for copies of posts regarding Arthur before he died, the request is not limited in time. While the time period of relevant discovery while Arthur was alive may be broad, it is not unlimited. “Discovery orders requiring document production from an unreasonably long time period … are impermissibly overbroad.” While one of the plaintiffs indicated in her deposition that she had placed posts about Arthur on a social media site, the request at issue in this proceeding was not limited to those posts, nor was it limited to the period after Arthur’s death. While the Lowes are seeking damages for their mental anguish, and the statements the Lowes made about Arthur’s death are within the general scope of discovery, the Lowes did not establish that they had an expectation of privacy in their statements on social media sites. Nevertheless, a request without a time limit for posts is overly broad on its face. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the request for posts because it was unlimited in time.
And there you go. This case suggests that social media discovery is no longer a novelty and that requests direct to social media profiles are just like any other such requests.
That’s probably a good thing.