Like the perpetually feuding families the Hatfields and the Mccoys, attorney Mitch Jackson’s client and his neighbors were involved in an ongoing dispute since September 2007. The neighbors had dumped trash into the client’s yard on a number of occasions and verbally harassed them while crossing paths within the community.
The last straw was when the abusive neighbors injured the client’s dog, resulting in some hefty vet bills. Jackson’s clients decided to sue.
To win the case, Jackson, who is a senior partner at the Jackson and Wilson law firm in Orange County, would need to show the jury that the neighbors had a history of harassing his client with vulgar threats. But when the defendant took the stand, he testified that it was not in his character to use such crude and profane language. That’s when Jackson pulled up the defendant’s Facebook page.
“We had photocopied his Facebook wall, where he had posted general derogatory comments,” Jackson says. “When we did that, he tried to explain how that could not constitute the type of language we had attributed to him earlier.”
- Attorneys can mine your Facebook and Twitter accounts for evidence.
- Deleting your social media accounts during trial can result in penalties.
- Your lawyer should counsel you on how to use social media while your case is ongoing.
The jury ended up awarding Jackson’s plaintiff more than $430,000 in damages. Speaking to the jury after the trial, Jackson discovered the Facebook wall postings were a key factor in diminishing the defendant’s credibility.
Jackson’s case illustrates how social media, like Facebook and Twitter, are changing the legal landscape for defendants and plaintiffs alike. With so much personal information voluntarily being made public, it’s no surprise things like wall posts and Tweets are showing up as evidence in court. And Jackson says this is something that all lawyers and consumers need to be cognizant of.