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Hunold v Facebook

You might have read our previous articles about the effect of social media on personal injuries claims. Our firm recently had the opportunity to see first hand how social media profiles can effectively destroy an otherwise solid personal injury claim.

Our firm acted on behalf of Mr Kris Hunold in a personal injuries claim against the Queensland Police Service. Judgment was delivered on 23 March 2018 (see Hunold v Twinn & The State of Queensland [2018] QDC 43).

Mr Hunold had been out in Surfers Paradise in 2009. At around 4:00 am two unidentified females approached Mr Hunold’s sister and cousin on the footpath and a physical argument began.  Mr Hunold stepped in to assist and protect his sister and cousin when police officer Twinn approached him from the rear, pinned him to the ground, struck and detained him.

Mr Hunold was arrested for public nuisance and alleged he was injured in the process – specifically a fracture of his vertebrae. Mr Hunold claimed the actions of Twinn amounted to an assault and battery.

The District Court found that the actions did amount to assault and battery, and Mr Hunold won his claim.

However, even though Mr Hunold won his claim, the award for damages was a miserly $27,500.00 being $11,000 for general damages, $1,500 for out-of-pocket expenses and $15,000 for past economic loss.

Mr Hunold appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal where he was given leave to appeal the decision, but the appeal was then dismissed (see Hunold v Twinn [2018] QCA 308). The Court of Appeal ultimately agreed with the findings of the District Court.

So how did Facebook effect the claim? In the Court of Appeal decision it was said from the findings of the District Court “her Honour made specific findings that the applicant was not as physically restricted as he had maintained in his evidence, having regard to photographic evidence obtained from his Facebook page. Again, there were nine instances of activity shown by the photographs not consistent with the applicant’s evidence as to the extent of his disabilities.”

During the original proceedings it was submitted on behalf of Mr Hunold that it is difficult to make any real assessment of how a person is truly feeling by looking at what they choose to present to the rest of the world on their Facebook page. In the real world, people do not post pictures of themselves feeling sore or sad, but rather just those moments where they are happiest and enjoying life which might not be all too often. The original Judge was not critical of Mr Hunold living his life, but did find the pictures and videos to be evidence of what Mr Hunold was capable of doing.

If you are in the process of making a personal injuries claim, if you use any social media platforms you may be required to disclose the entire content as they may relate to the circumstances of your claim, just as in Mr Hunold’s claim.

Had certain photos or videos not been on Mr Hunold’s Facebook page, the award for his damages could have been very different.

If you have started an injury claim you should talk to your lawyer about reviewing your Facebook, or other social media, pages.

We strongly recommend that you bear in mind that the Respondent to your claim, or any future claim, may investigate your social media profiles ,or even your friend’s profiles. Before posting comments, pictures or videos you should bear in mind whether these posts might ‘suggest’ that you are capable of more then you actually are.

Even if your profile is closed to the public, the Respondent may still be able to obtain an Order from the Court for you to disclose the entire content of your social media profile. In Mr Hunold’s case, he was ordered to ‘friend’ the opposing legal representative so that access was unrestricted.

For more information about personal injuries claims or the impact of social media contact one of our injury lawyers on 13 58 28.