Social media brings an entirely new dynamic to the world of litigation. For instance, photos on a Virginia man’s Facebook account were brought up during his wrongful death lawsuit against a cement truck driver and his employer… and it almost became a very costly mistake.
On June 21, 2007, cement truck driver William Donald Sprouse crossed the center line of Thomas Jefferson Parkway in Charlottesville, Virginia. The truck tipped over onto a vehicle driven by Jessica Lester, 25, and husband, Isaiah, 26. Jessica died from her injuries eight days later while Isaiah escaped with superficial injuries, but developed severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Mr. Lester sued Allied Concrete and the truck driver not only on his behalf, but on behalf of his wife’s estate and parents.
Nearly all the evidence favored the plaintiff, with authorities confirming the truck driver was speeding and that he did not follow the directions on his delivery ticket. Sprouse served 30 days for involuntary manslaughter and the verdict totaled more than $12 million, with interest. Mr. Lester was awarded $6.28 million and each of Jessica’s parents were given $1 million. An additional $2.35 million went to Isaiah for his own injuries.
However, the defense claimed “spoliation of evidence,” claiming Mr. Lester deleted 16 photographs from his Facebook page after a request to produce copies of it. Pictures showed him in an apparent not-so-unhappy state, insinuating his psychological trauma was not so bad. Allied Concrete’s defense attorneys argued for a new trial. While denied, Judge Edward Hogshire did remove $4,127,000 from Mr. Lester’s award.
Both sides in the case appealed the results to the Virginia Supreme Court, which ultimately sided with the plaintiff, reinstating the Charlottesville jury’s original award.