There has been a lot of hubbub involving employment discrimination suits and plaintiffs' use of social networking sites. But a federal magistrate judge in the Central District of California took a different approach. Remember the scene in the movie “Casablanca” where Sam the piano player croons that “the fundamental things apply as time goes by”?
Here's the scoop from the Sept. 7 opinion in Mailhoit v. Home Depot USA Inc., et al. The plaintiff’s suit sought mental anguish damages. The defendant sought information from her social networking sites that “reveal, refer, or relate to any emotion, feeling, or mental state of Plaintiff, as well as communications by or from Plaintiff that reveal, refer, or relate to events that could reasonably be expected to produce a significant emotion, feelings, or mental state.” The plaintiff objected, the defendant moved to compel, and the court denied the motion.
Why? Well, the rules require that the request be stated with reasonable particularity, which the court found lacking. Here is the court:
Even if the first part of this category, which seeks communications relating to ‘any emotion,’ could be understood to encompass only communications containing specific words (which the request does not identify), the category would still arguably require the production of many materials of doubtful relevance, such as a posting with the statement ‘I hate it when my cable goes out.’ The second part of the category, which seeks communications relating to ‘events’ . . . [could include] watching a football game or a movie on television . . . that may produce some sort of ‘significant emotion. . . .’
In other words, the request was so metaphysical that the plaintiff was not provided with sufficient notice of what would be considered responsive. And this was one court that was not getting dragged into the kind of arguments that medieval monks engaged in on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.