Using Social Media to Debunk Exaggerated Claims
Smith, Freed & Eberhard Partner Catherine Becker recently resolved a matter involving a car accident between her client (the defendant) and a high school student (the plaintiff). Catherine utilized the student’s social media documentation of his daily routine to demonstrate the embellishment of his injuries and achieve a favorable judgment for her client.
The Background Story
After being rear-ended by Catherine’s client, in an accident that caused no visible damage to the plaintiff’s SUV, the plaintiff filed suit alleging soft tissue back and neck injuries. Plaintiff’s counsel relied on damage to Catherine’s client’s small sedan to build a case culminating in a $25,000 final demand that included $9,200 in medical bills. After receiving three and a half months of treatment for his alleged soft tissue back and neck injuries, the plaintiff then claimed, over a year later and after a nine month gap in treatment, that he also suffered from a sprained wrist and developed a ganglion cyst as a result of the accident.
To make her case, Catherine adeptly used the testimony of the plaintiff’s experts against him. Plaintiff’s counsel brought in three highly personable treating providers who all eventually conceded both that the cyst could not have been caused by accident and that the plaintiff’s continued wrist complaints were different compared to what he was complaining about a few months after the accident. She then pointed to a litany of Facebook posts in which the plaintiff shared images and accounts that undermined his claims of injury, including documentation of continued weight lifting, participation in team sports, and photos in which he is carrying young adults and teens on his back and in his arm just months after the accident.
By shifting the theme of the case to an illustration of the plaintiff’s exaggerated claims of continuing ongoing pain, Catherine was able to demonstrate that the accident and its aftermath amounted to what was really just a three month blip on plaintiff’s final year of high school, which did not substantially affect his life at all. After offering $18,000 in response to a final demand of $25,000, Catherine expertly achieved a judgment of only $13,500.