Court Okays Facebook Party Photos in Workers Comp Claim
An appeals court has ruled that photos on Facebook and Myspace of a man "drinking and partying" can be used as evidence to deny him further workers compensation claims.
At the center of the suit is Zackery Clement, who suffered a hernia March 12, 2009 after a refrigerator fell on him while on the job at Johnson's Warehouse Showroom in Pine Bluff, Ark. Clement, who was compensated for medical expenses and received temporary total-disability benefits for more than a year, was seeking an extension of benefits following three surgeries as a result of the injury.
The story was first reported by Courthouse News Service.
An administrative law judge and the Arkansas Compensation Commission denied Clement's application for additional benefits, and Clement, 27, was hoping the Arkansas Court of Appeals would reverse the ruling. He argued that he needed further medical treatment and disability payments because of "excruciating pain."
Key to Clement's appeal was his request that the court ban the party photos. In his appeal, Clement's legal team argued the photos were unrelated to medical treatment and "a disgrace to the dignity of the workers compensations proceedings and the legal system."
"Allowing those Facebook photos for the proceeding is an injustice because it takes away from the dignity of the working class," said Steven McNeely, the attorney for Clement. "That had nothing to do with whether or not he had an hernia. It's irrelevant, immaterial and prejudicial. It should be about whether Zack needed additional treatment."
A pdf of some of the images can be found here.
Instead, the appeals court agreed with previous rulings, which denied a request for additional treatment after diagnostic tests showed "no recurrent hernia and surgery to explore the scrotum" and saw no abuse by the courts in allowing the photos.
In denying Clement's request for additional compensation and treatment, the court ruled in favor of the use of Facebook photos as a evidence.
In an opinion, written by Judge David M. Glover, the Arkansas Court of Appeals states: "We find no abuse of discretion in the allowance of photographs. Clement contended that he was in excruciating pain, but these pictures show him drinking and partying."
"Certainly these pictures could have a bearing on a Clement's credibility, albeit a negative effect that Clement might not wish to be demonstrated to the ALJ or the Commission, " Glover continues. "We hold that there was not an abuse of discretion in allowing the photographs."
A spokesperson for Johnson's Warehouse did not immediately return our request for comment.