Stallings v. City of Johnston City, et al., Expensive Hard Copy Production of Social Media Highlights Need to Retain ESI Expert

Plaintiff, Jayne Stallings, a former city water office supervisor, sued Johnston City, its town mayor and former city water alderman on grounds of wrongful termination, malicious conduct and denial of due process during her last months of employment before she was fired in December 2012.

Stallings appealed a Magistrate Judge’s ruling regarding production of her financial records, access to medical records and the production of social media, specifically, un-redacted Facebook pages. Plaintiff provided defendant’s counsel with approximately 466 pages from plaintiff’s account which had been painstakingly downloaded, names redacted and pages collated involving a week of attorney and paralegal time. The court directed Plaintiff to provide defense counsel with either an electronic version or a hard copy of the un-redacted pages. Stallings argued that there was no basis to override her right to privacy in her bank records and with respect to the Facebook data, argued that the order violated her privacy and the privacy of minors and other individuals not involved in the litigation. The Plaintiff also argued that most of the Facebook information was irrelevant and unduly burdensome for her to produce.

On appeal, District Court Judge Herndon found that with respect to the bank records, the defendants cast too wide a net and did not justify the breadth of their request and limited the discovery of evidence to cash deposits.

Although Stallings argued that the Facebook pages should be redacted to protect the identity of minors, the District court found that Stallings had not demonstrated the names of any of the individuals with whom she had Facebook conversations were minors. Further the court noted that it was clear that some of the Facebook pages contain conversations between Stallings and others concerning the litigation which would be considered relevant or used to impeach Stallings’ testimony.

In the end, the District Court ordered Stallings to provide defense counsel with all relevant Facebook pages which it deem to be only those which contained statements about this litigation including discussions regarding Stallings’ physical or mental health. Because she was unable to put the relevant information on a disk, Stallings’ counsel was ordered to provide defense counsel with a redacted hard copy of the material as well as the names and towns of residence of the individuals with whom Stallings had relevant conversations. To the extent any of the relevant conversations involved individuals who were currently minors, Stallings was not to provide the minors’ names or addresses unless ordered by the court to do so at a later date.

Stallings v. City of Johnston City, et al., No. 13-cv-422-DRH-SCWWas (S.D.Ill. May 19, 2014).

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