Turn over Facebook history, judge orders
A New Brunswick judge has ordered a Miramichi woman to reveal how often she uses the social-networking website Facebook to a man she's suing after a 2004 car crash.
Rosemary Carter is fighting Herbert Connors for damages after the two were involved in a collision in the northern New Brunswick community five years ago.
In her lawsuit, Carter has said she hasn't been able to return to work full-time as an administrative clerk at the Miramichi Hospital.
During the discovery process, when each side in the dispute asks for evidence, Conners' lawyer asked Carter to turn over her internet records from Bell Aliant and specifically to disclose her Facebook activity.
She refused, saying turning over that information would violate her privacy.
Connors' lawyer asked a judge to order her to turn them over, a request that was granted by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Fred Ferguson on Dec. 2.
He wrote in his decision there's a low threshold for disclosing evidence and it met the "semblance of relevance" test required when deciding if information will be turned over during discovery.
"It does so, by possibly providing a window into what physical capacity the plaintiff has to keyboard, access the internet and communicate with family friends and associates on Facebook and thus what capacity she may have to work. In that sense: 'It may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,' the threshold required for the evidence to be produced," the judge's decision said.
"Incidentally, it must not be forgotten that this legal action was commenced by the plaintiff and in launching it she has implicitly accepted certain intrusions into what otherwise might be private information, the disclosure of which would ordinarily be left to her own personal judgment."
Ferguson's decision also cited a British Columbia ruling in which a Facebook account was used to determine if a car accident victim was still able to play sports.
The judge also said he'll make sure during the trial that Connors doesn't use the information too intrusively.
Quebec woman lost insurance over Facebook photos
Carter's case raises similarities to another high-profile Canadian example of how a person's Facebook account has become the centre of a legal fight.
In November, Nathalie Blanchard, 29, said her disability pay for depression was cancelled because of her Facebook profile.
Blanchard took sick leave from her job at IBM last year, after she was diagnosed with major depression. In that time, she took various approaches to treat her mood disorder, including prescription medication and therapy.
Blanchard also tried to have fun, which was also recommended by her physician.
However, photographs of that fun — a beach holiday last year, a night out on the town with friends — are part of the evidence Manulife used to stop payments this fall.
Blanchard said the insurance company told her that she looked well enough to work based on her Facebook photos.
Manulife stopped paying her sick-leave benefits, and her mortgage company, Desjardins, ended her insurance payments.