From the Conference Room to the Chat Room
If you have ever been involved in a lawsuit, you'll know what I mean. If you have not, this is your warning.
The best kind of evidence is from the heart—spur-of-the-moment statements that amount to a virtual paper-trail recording of everything someone says and does. I'm referring to social media evidence like Facebook and Twitter.
As a trial lawyer, I relish finding or receiving Facebook and Twitter pages from my opponents in a lawsuit. People love to rant and rave about their jobs on these sites. Such postings usually contain a treasure trove of evidence that can be used either in favor of, or against, a company.
I recently defended a case for a company that was sued by a former employee, who was fired for performance issues. The employee hired a lawyer who alleged that the company's explanation for the firing was pre-textual and the actual reason for termination was age discrimination.
In discovery (the part of the case where parties request and obtain relevant documents from the other side), I requested and obtained printouts of the employee's Facebook posts. What we found was shocking. For months, this employee used Facebook to disclose the company's trade secrets—bragging about the company's new inventions. This public disclosure of the company's confidential information had serious implications for the company—trade secrets must be kept confidential; otherwise, they are no longer trade secrets and can be scooped up by competitors.
In addition, this employee foolishly posted about what he had been up to since his termination. Instead of finding a new job, he was spending "every day at the beach." He also mentioned his plan to buy a brand new BMW with the money he was going to get from his lawsuit against his former employer. Needless to say, the case settled on terms favorable to my client shortly thereafter.