Discovery and Social Media

Popular social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, serve as a platform for individuals to share their lives with a select group of their online friends or the world.  These social media accounts may provide key sources of information in litigation which should not be overlooked.

Courts have generally held that social media content is neither privileged nor protected by any right of privacy.  See Mailhoit v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 285 F.R.D. 566, 570 (C.D. Cal. 2012).    Even if a person has implemented certain privacy settings with respect to their profile, the information is still not protected from disclosure based on a claim of privacy.  E.E.O.C. v. Simply Storage Mgmt., LLC, 270 F.R.D. 430, 434 (S.D. Ind. 2010).

In Patterson v. Turner Constr. Co., 931 N.Y.S.2d 311 (N.Y. App. Div. 2011), the court drew a comparison between private social media pages and a person’s diary, reasoning that in the same way that “relevant matter” from and individual’s diary is discoverable, any relevant material from an individual’s Facebook account is discoverable regardless of the privacy settings utilized by the page’s creator.  As one judge has observed, “Facebook is not used as a means by which account holders carry on monologues with themselves.”  Simply Storage Mgmt., 270 F.R.D. at 434.

The general rule in light of the foregoing is that an individual’s social media content is discoverable if it falls within the scope of discovery as set forth in Civil Rule 26(b)(1):

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action….  It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

This rule is designed to permit a broad scope of discovery.  Barfield v. City of Seattle, 100 Wn. 2d 878, 883, 676 P.2d 438, 441 (1984); see also Simply Storage Mgmt., 270 F.R.D. at 434 (where relevance is in doubt, FRCP Rule 26(b)(1) indicates that the court should permit discovery).

By:  Alicia Dragoo


Client Testimonial

(This testimonial was written to the claims specialist at Nationwide Insurance Company.)

I don’t truly know where to begin to THANK YOU for all you have done for me, my family, and my business. I am without a doubt, a Nationwide Lifer! Your professionalism and caring manner, willingness to work with us and unwavering flexibility in helping to manage our lawsuit has been more than exceptional. You are spectacular! Stellar!

Please know that Todd Startzel and his entire team in Spokane have been truly incredible over the past 1.5 years.

Never before working with you, Todd, and Nationwide Insurance, have I ever felt that I was “in good hands.” (I know, that’s Allstate’s tagline)….I say, “With Nationwide, we’re in the BEST hands possible!” Nationwide is more than “on our side”.

I know from real world experience, that “Nationwide is AT MY SIDE, and even LIFTING ME UP at the same time!”

There are no words for how incredible, talented, and damn smart Todd and Stephanie are at Startzel’s law firm. They have been an absolute joy to work with over the past few years and we have even developed a great friendship through the turmoil of this lawsuit.

It pleases me so very much that Nationwide DID NOT have to settle the case for even a single penny! I know you have Todd’s team’s costs you have incurred, and I cannot tell you how deeply appreciative Gail and I are for your support and counsel during this lawsuit.

I authorize you to use this testimonial any way you would desire. My sincerest thanks to you and all you have done for us.

With my warmest regards,

Steve Inch

Kirkpatrick & Startzel, P.S. Relocation

Kirkpatrick & Startzel, P.S. is excited to announce the relocation of its law offices as of August 1, 2017, to the historic Legion Building at 108 North Washington Street, Suite 201, at the corner of Riverside and Washington Street in Downtown Spokane. The phone number will remain (509) 455-3647. The Legion Building is a perfect match for Kirkpatrick & Startzel based on its historic presence in Spokane and connection to the rich history of the Inland Northwest. The new offices feature modern amenities in a historic setting, including comfortable conference rooms and a warm, inviting reception area. Access to the Legion Building will also be convenient for our clients, with several nearby parking options.

The Legion Building was built in 1901 and is listed on the Spokane, Washington, and National Registers of Historic Places. It was designed by notable Spokane architect John K. Dow, and has many unique aesthetic features and qualities typical of buildings built in the early 1900s. It was built by Spokane contractor Peter L. Peterson, who also was the contractor who built the Davenport Hotel. The Legion Building also has many modern updates due to a recent nearly 3-year renovation that both maintained and restored historic qualities while providing additional amenities.

Since 1988, Kirkpatrick & Startzel, P.S. has been providing top-quality legal services to its clients. Our primary service areas are Washington, Idaho and Western Montana. Our practice areas include complex civil litigation, commercial litigation, personal injury, wrongful death, catastrophic injury, civil rights, construction law, consumer law, insurance law, estate planning and more. The new office space is newly constructed and was custom designed to accomplish the firm’s ever-present mission to best serve the interests of its clients. For more information about the firm, please visit our newly updated website at to find information about the new offices, our people and the work we do on behalf of our clients throughout the Greater Inland Northwest and beyond. We pride ourselves on being large enough to help, small enough to care.

Crosswalk Event

For the past year, members of our firm have assisted in meal preparation for the Crosswalk Teen Shelter. The Shelter is located in Downtown Spokane (525 W. 2nd Ave.) and provides a much needed service of meals and a place to stay for homeless teens. Crosswalk provides other necessities for the teens, such as tutoring, life skills training and counseling. The members of the Crosswalk team are dedicated volunteers, and our firm hopes to continue a long relationship of helping out this very worthwhile organization.