Plaintiff Ordered to Supplement Production Of Social Media Data, Pay Attorneys' Fees

Feb. 23 — A plaintiff must produce his Twitter account and explain in a log what he redacted or withheld from earlier productions of his social media communications, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana ruled Feb. 20.

Magistrate Judge Andrew P. Rodovich wrote that plaintiff David O. Haddad also must pay attorneys' fees and reasonable expenses incurred by the defendants because of the discovery dispute over whether he adequately produced social media information.

The case began when Haddad sued Lake Central School Corp. in November 2011 for physical and emotional damages because of alleged bullying and harassment from fellow students. During discovery, the school district sought communications made by Haddad on social media.

A January 2014 order in the case held that Haddad had to produce any social media information that was relevant to his mental state.

Inadequate Production?

The court said that Haddad provided about 85 pages of redacted material, but it “did not include all categories of information that Facebook permits its users to download.” Defense counsel subsequently deposed Haddad and showed him a Facebook post that appeared to be missing from his production. “Haddad answered that he did not recall whether he had deleted the post and admitted he may have deleted the post prior to the court order,” the court said.

Haddad's counsel withdrew from the case, and the school district asked Haddad directly for additional information from his Facebook account, the court said. The plaintiff said he produced all responsive information, leading the defendants to file a motion for sanctions in August 2014.

Haddad obtained new counsel, who produced 1,415 pages of materials from Haddad's Facebook account and documents from his Twitter account. The defendants were again dissatisfied with the production, the court said, because it was “over seventy-five percent redacted and included approximately 1,000 fully redacted pages.” They also argued that he failed to produce deleted communications from his social media accounts.

Court: Sanctions Are Appropriate 

The defendants asked the court to dismiss the case or impose lesser sanctions on Haddad. The court has the power to impose sanctions for failure to comply with a court order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b)(2).

It ruled that it wouldn't order dismissal of Haddad's case because of the lack of prior sanctions against Haddad or exceptional misconduct by the plaintiff.

Lesser sanctions such as requiring Haddad to produce his Twitter profile, provide a log detailing what information was redacted for relevance and pay attorneys' fees were appropriate, the court said. It found that Haddad was responsible for his prior and current counsels' insufficient discovery productions of social media communications.

Loevy & Loevy represented Haddad. Crist, Sears & Zic LLP represented Lake Central School Corp.

The full text of D.O.H. v. Lake Cent. Sch. Corp. is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/DOH_v_Lake_Cent_Sch_Corp_No_211cv430_2015_BL_43689_ND_Ind_Feb_20_