Federal Judge in New Jersey Issues Adverse Inference Instruction Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Preserve Facebook Information in Personal Injury Action

Recently, a federal judge in New Jersey imposed sanctions for a personal injury plaintiff’s failure to preserve his Facebook account. The Court concluded that it was “beyond dispute that Plaintiff had a duty to preserve his Facebook account,” and granted the defendant’s motion for an adverse inference instruction. The plaintiff allegedly suffered serious injuries at work, which purportedly left him permanently disabled, unable to work, and limited in his “physical and social activities.” The defendants sought the plaintiff’s Facebook information, alleging it related to damages, but the plaintiff declined to provide an authorization form for Facebook. During a settlement conference, the Magistrate Judge ordered the plaintiff to execute the appropriate form, and the plaintiff agreed to change his account password to allow defense counsel to access his Facebook page. Defense counsel then accessed his account and printed portions of the plaintiff’s Facebook page.