Chatting with "friends" on social networking sites could have legal implications and turn Facebook users into their own worst enemies.
In a precedent-setting decision, a Toronto judge has ordered a man suing over injuries from a car accident to answer questions about content on his Facebook page that is off limits to the public.
Lawyers for Janice Roman, the defendant in the lawsuit, believe information posted on John Leduc's private Facebook site – normally accessible only to his approved "friends" – may be relevant to his claim an accident in Lindsay in 2004 lessened his enjoyment of life.
As a result of the ruling by Justice David Brown of Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, Leduc must now submit to cross-examination by Roman's lawyers about what his Facebook page contains.
Brown's Feb. 20 ruling also makes clear that lawyers must now explain to their clients "in appropriate cases" that postings on Facebook or other networking sites – such as MySpace, LinkedIn and even blogs – may be relevant to allegations in a lawsuit, said Tariq Remtulla, a Toronto lawyer who has been following the issue.
This could easily apply in a personal injury case in which a litigant claims his or her quality of life has been affected, Remtulla said.
"If you are alleging that, as a result of an accident, you have not been able to enjoy life the same way and there is a photo taken after the accident showing you skiing or exercising ... that could be relevant," the civil litigation and intellectual property lawyer said in an interview yesterday.
What's on Facebook might also matter in insurance cases or family law cases where there's a dispute over custody, Remtulla suggested. Photos, for example, could reveal something about a parent's living conditions.