GL-og, A Law Blog

Removing the Mystery from the Legal Process

The Importance of Being Honest

Ann Thompson - Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The best piece of advice I can give to potential clients is “tell your lawyer everything.*” Everything. Even if you think there's no way the other side can find out about some issue - tell her anyway. I guarantee that the other side will find it out, regardless.

The whole concept of a civil case is that each side knows everything about each side’s facts and argument before trial. (This is why most civil cases settle: there is little guesswork involved.) If both lawyers have done their jobs well, there will be little to no surprises at trail. Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the other side. However, your lawyer will rarely feel the need to investigate all aspects of your life: she will ask you about what she views to be the relevant issues, and will rely on you to fill in the gaps she couldn’t have guessed about. Opposing counsel, however, will not trust you to provide this information. You should assume your credit card records, Facebook profile, your friends’ Facebook profiles, your emails, your public records, and your tax returns will all be carefully pored over by opposing counsel - don’t give them the advantage by lying or omitting information from your own attorney. Give your attorney as much information as possible.

Even if you have a doubt as to whether you should mention something to your attorney, always err on the side of telling her. It is much better for her to learn the facts, good or bad, well before a deposition or trial. If the information is bad, your lawyer can spend time figuring out how to block the information from being introduced at trial. If the information can't be blocked, your lawyer can figure out a way to spin it. And if there's nothing to be done with the bad information, and it's truly hurtful to your case? Well, your lawyer can save you a lot of time, effort, and money by telling you up front that you need to settle your case ASAP.

It’s human nature to spin facts to one’s advantage, especially when telling a “white lie” or covering up something small that’s just plain embarrassing. What if you don't tell your lawyer about something inconsequential, and then you lie about it in, say, a deposition? That lie will come back to haunt you. The other side will find it out, and opposing counsel will make you out to look like the biggest liar this side of the Mississippi. Nothing you say, even if the rest is totally accurate, will look true. Don’t exaggerate or cover up the facts, even if it the fact at issue doesn’t seem like a big deal.

*I don’t practice criminal law, but it is my understanding that if you’ve committed murder, confessing the details to your attorney is not always the best strategy. This article assumes you are a party to a civil case, not a criminal case.

 


Greenberg & LaPeyronnie is not your lawyer, and therefore the information contained in this blog post is simply informational, not legal advice. However, if you have any questions or are seeking legal advice, please call us at 504-366-8118 to set up a consultation today. 

 

Could Your Facebook Account Lose Your Case?

Ann Thompson - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Could your Facebook account lose your case? Absolutely. Both I and other attorneys at Greenberg & LaPeyronnie have personally won several cases by strategically using the other party's Facebook account information against him or her.

 

Almost everyone is on Facebook these days. Most people know to check their settings and keep their profiles private, especially if they are a party to a lawsuit. And never "friend" opposing parties or opposing counsel. (One would think that would be obvious, but....) But should you be on Facebook at all, if you are involved in litigation? Attorneys are routinely using Facebook pictures and posts as evidence in trials. Could this woman be you?

 

Examples of Real Cases

 

Although it can happen in any case, domestic lawsuits and personal injury cases are the most likely candidates for Facebook abuse. In a domestic case involving false allegations of abuse, I used the alleged victim’s Facebook post stating that she would do or say “anything” to get back at her ex-boyfriend, our client. Her claim was dismissed. I am aware of personal injury cases which have been “zero-ed” when a supposedly severely injured party was tagged in Facebook pictures carrying his child on his shoulders or enjoying beers with friends and family. Recently, a Florida court rescinded a settlement of $80,000.00 after the plaintiff's daughter violated a confidentiality clause by bragging about the settlement on Facebook. If you are a plaintiff in a personal injury suit or you have an ongoing domestic case, it is probably in your best interest to shut down your Facebook profile altogether.

 

What Can Be Produced

 

The good news for you: Facebook is notorious for failing to respond to subpoenas (unless, of course, the requesting party is in California or domesticates the subpoena in California, is in law enforcement, or is the federal government). But that won't stop the court from ordering you to download your account information in full - including your password, pictures, and private messages - and turn it over to the other side. And if you don't comply with that order? Or get caught deleting portions of that account? Well, things might look pretty grim for your case.

 

Deleting or Deactivating Your Account

 

What if you to get rid of your account altogether? Keep in mind that permanently deleting a Facebook account may count as destruction or spoliation of evidence. (Although Facebook may internally retain some or all of your information; given their screwy privacy policies, no one really knows.) And deactivating a Facebook account doesn't eliminate your account; it just prohibits access to it, until you log back in. 

 

What to Do

 

But hope is not lost. If you don't have an active Facebook account, the other side is less likely to want to obtain your records. And they must have some reason to do so - some courts have ruled that a "fishing expedition" to see what they might find is not enough. If you've been smart, haven't posted anything about your lawsuit, haven't lied to opposing counsel, and your privacy settings are sky-high, there will be little reason for opposing counsel to request your information, and little reason for the judge to order you to produce it.

 

Long Story Short

 

Keep your profile as private as possible, but assume everything on Facebook is totally public; deactivate (not delete) your account if you are a party to a lawsuit; don't lie or exaggerate; and don't post anything - ever - about the subject of your case.

 

Want more information? Start herehere, and here.

 

Greenberg & LaPeyronnie is not your lawyer, and therefore the information contained in this blog post is simply informational, not legal advice. However, if you have any questions or are seeking legal advice, please call us at 504-366-8118 to set up a consultation today.