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Be Wary of What You Write: The Internet Lasts Forever

It started so simply.  The pediatrician wanted an outlet to vent  and express his ideas so he started a blog.  Blogging under the name “Flea,” he had a fairly popular blog with intellectually stimulating posts.   But Flea was sued for malpractice after he allegedly failed to diagnose that one of his patients was diabetic, and the child later died.  As the litigation progressed, Flea started blogging about the case, his preparation, and eventually, the trial.  His observations included his thoughts on the opposing attorney, the plaintiff parents, the judge, and even the jury.  And it all seemed to be harmless until Flea was being cross-examined on the stand.  After the plaintiffs’ attorney asked the witness if he blogged, and if he blogged under the name Flea, the court granted a requested recess.  Knowing that the contents of the blog  (including thoughts on his preparation for the trial and testimony and discussions about which jurors were paying attention or nodding off) were about to be exposed to the jury, the defendant’s insurance company settled the case during the break.  A summary of the case was set out in the Boston Globe.

But Flea isn’t the only “victim” of the internet.  In the old days, when investigating opponents or even witnesses, attorneys didn’t have many tools unless they wanted to hire private detectives.  A few years ago, internet based databases started showing up that allowed us to investigate criminal backgrounds and other basic information.  And in the last couple of years, we’ve hit the jackpot.  People’s willingness to make public their most personal information is almost amazing.  We’re often shocked what we find in people’s blogs, their facebook or my space pages or elsewhere.  It’s not uncommon to find admissions of guilt, admissions of drug or alcohol abuse, or at a minimum, admission of other conduct that can cast a negative light on the person.

And from now on, learn from Flea. Pay attention to what you write, and make sure you don’t say anything that comes back to haunt you later.

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