Personal Injury Plaintiff Can’t Hide Post-Accident Instagram Posts, Judge Finds

Personal Injury Plaintiff Can’t Hide Post-Accident Instagram Posts, Judge Finds

By In Personal Injury On October 16, 2018

A plaintiff who brought a lawsuit over injuries she allegedly suffered in a motor vehicle accident—injuries she says have caused her a loss of enjoyment in life—has failed in her bid to keep photos from her Instagram account from being admitted in her case.

The defendants are seeking an admission from plaintiff Christina Smith that photos and a video posted on Instagram after her March 21, 2015, motor vehicle accident, in which a young woman is depicted engaging in various activities, such as rock climbing and strolling on a boardwalk, are indeed of Smith.

The majority of the photos for which the defendants seek admissions are “selfies,” said acting Bronx Supreme Court Justice John Higgitt. For those who don’t know what a selfie is, the judge cites an entry from the Oxford English Dictionary: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.”

On the day of the accident, Smith was being driven upstate to visit her father in Gowanda Correctional Facility in Erie County in a van being driven by defendant Stafford Brown, which collided with a vehicle being driven by defendant Frank Pasquale on a ramp for Interstate 86 in Cattaraugus County.

Smith claims she suffered injuries to her spine and her knee and has sued both Brown and Pasquale for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment in life. Earlier this year, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Julia Rodriguez denied Brown’s bid for summary judgment.

Pasquale moved to admit in August, arguing that the Instagram photos show that, if they depict Smith, her injuries aren’t as severe as she claims, as well as an admission that she changed her account from public to private at some point after the accident.

Scott Rynecki of Rubenstein & Rynecki, who represents Smith, did not answer Pasquale’s motion to admit and responded instead with a motion for a protective order.

But Higgitt denied Rynecki’s motion, finding that the motion to admit concerns “clear-cut matters of fact”: either Smith has an Instagram account or she doesn’t, the judge said.

Ralph Schoene of Collins, Fitzpatrick & Schoene represents Pasquale; Theresa Mariano of the Law Office of Dennis C. Bartling appeared for Brown.

Rynecki declined to comment and Schoene did not respond to a request for comment.