Archives for August 2013

Past Twitter Account Activity Can Provide Evidence in a Civil or Criminal Case

Twitter & Facebook
A compelling recent example how social media accounts can be mined for evidence in legal proceedings comes from Pleasanton. The case is a criminal matter in which a charge of vehicular manslaughter was upgraded to a homicide charge after police investigators uncovered tweets from the defendant bragging about his love of reckless driving.

Defendant Cody Hall was originally arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving after the car he was driving struck and killed a woman bicyclist. He was released on bail but is now being held without bail after the police upgraded the charge to second-degree murder.

The San Francisco Chronicle cited local police authorities in its August 14 article on the upgraded criminal charges, stating: “An analysis of Hall’s driving record and pattern – along with Twitter posts in which he talked about how fast he liked to drive – factored into upgrading the case to murder.”

Mr. Hall’s Twitter account included posts such as, “Drive fast live young” and, “Someone come on a death ride with me !!!”

Bay Area police intend to use the Twitter posts and other evidence of his past driving patterns to prove second-degree murder, which requires the prosecution to prove that the driver “engaged in an intentional, unlawful act done with conscious disregard for the risk to human life.”

Posts on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media accounts can be used in civil cases, too, including personal injury lawsuits. As experienced personal injury litigators, the attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg include investigation into relevant social media accounts in every case we handle. We know how to find relevant posts, including both incriminating and exculpatory statements, and we have faced and overcome the evidentiary challenges of introducing such social media statements as valid evidence.

Contact Weber & Nierenberg

Review of pertinent social media accounts is only one step in our thorough investigations on behalf of our personal injury clients. If you are looking for a San Francisco Bay Area personal injury lawyer, contact us for a free initial consultation. Call our office toll free at 1-866-288-6010 or send us an e-mail to set up an appointment.

Was It Libel or Was It Slander? What’s the Difference?

Did someone make an untrue statement about you that was broadcast on the radio or television? Did your name appear in print, with assertions, allegations or other inferences that damaged your personal or professional reputation? Was it libel or slander? What’s the difference? Does it really make a difference?

The Similarities between Libel and Slander

Libel and slander are both forms of what the law calls “defamation,” any representation that damages your reputation. To succeed in a defamation action, you must show the following:

  • The defendant made a statement of fact (written or spoken) that was published
  • The statement was false
  • The statement caused injury to your reputation
  • The statement was not made with any legal privilege

The Difference between Libel and Slander

Essentially, the difference between libel and slander is that libel refers to written communications and slander refers to spoken communications. Because written communications can create a permanent record, and can be accessible for longer periods of time than spoken communications, libel is generally considered to be more serious than slander. Libel may include personal communications, including letters, as well as statements in different print media, such as books, newspapers or magazines. It need not involve actual words, but may result from a picture or image, including a cartoon. Likewise, slander has a definition that includes more than simply a spoken word, such as a gesture.

Confusion can arise because of the requirement that a statement be “published” to be defamatory. For purposes of slander, this simply means made available to a third party through some means, either through direct hearing (the person was the recipient of a statement, or the spoken statement was made to a group of people), or through some broadcast means, such as radio, television or recording.

Both libel and slander require an untrue statement of fact, rather than opinion. To recover compensation, you must be able to prove that the statement was objectively false.

Contact Weber & Nierenberg

We offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has suffered a personal injury, including individuals who have been hurt in accidents. Call our office toll free at 1-866-288-6010 or send us an e-mail to set up an appointment.

What Is Multi-District Litigation?

In the federal court system, when there are cases that contain similar issues and common parties, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for a procedure known as multi-district litigation, or MDL, to consolidate the cases into a single federal district court to resolve all pre-trial matters. The process can be beneficial for plaintiffs as well as defendants, saving substantial time and money during the legal process. Here’s how it works:

Suppose that 10 different people are injured in 10 different states by a product either manufactured, designed or distributed by a single defendant. That defendant has its operations in a state where none of the plaintiffs reside, so there is federal jurisdiction in the case. Each injured person will likely file a personal injury claim in his or her home state, and the defendant may be required to defend 10 separate actions at the same time.

The defendant can, however, apply to the Judicial Panel of Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to have all the cases brought together in the same jurisdiction. The defendant will not need to hire local counsel in 10 different states, and will not need to incur travel expenses to 10 different states. The plaintiffs may also benefit from a consolidation of the cases into multidistrict litigation, as they stand a better chance of uniform decisions, because all pre-trial motions will be decided by a single court, and plaintiff’s lawyers will not have to make the same arguments again and again.

The JPML has ultimate authority to determine which cases will be consolidated into MDL. A panel of seven federal judges, the JPML addresses two specific issues when making a determination:

  • Do the similarities of the cases warrant a consolidation?
  • Which court will have responsibility pursuant to the consolidation?

The JPML may, in its discretion, assign the multidistrict litigation to a district that is home to neither the defendant nor any of the plaintiffs. MDL, however, only addresses pre-trial issues, such as discovery and motions. Once all pre-trial matters are resolved, each case will be returned to the court of original jurisdiction.

Contact Weber & Nierenberg

We offer a free initial consultation to anyone who has suffered a personal injury, including a motorcycle accident injury. Call our office toll free at 1-866-288-6010 or send us an e-mail to set up an appointment.

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