In November, 2013, a 20 year old woman, Kayla Mendoza, allegedly drove between 84 and 96 miles per hour the wrong way down a Florida highway. Her car allegedly collided with the car of Kaitlyn Ferrante and Marisa Catronio, both 21, who were killed as a result of the crash. What is worse about this incident is that Mendoza was allegedly intoxicated, underage, and according to recent reports, tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” a few hours before the crash.
The eleven-character-long tweet probably took only seconds to type; however it has already caused a lot of controversy. While the case against Mendoza is already stacked, the Tweet is now being used to demonstrate the extent of her careless and reckless behavior the night of the accident. Mendoza apparently also called herself the “pothead princess” on Twitter. This nickname and tweet are certainly not beneficial to the girl’s lead defense. This is because they do not portray a woman who is generally conscious of her behavior, nor do they show that Mendoza simply made a mistake that she will never make again, but rather depict for the court a woman who was no stranger to partying.
Mendoza’s public Twitter portrayed other tweets that further demonstrate her lack of responsibility, such as “Just me and my weed tonight.” The evidence from the Twitter account has likely had a very negative affect on the public opinion of the case and of Mendoza herself. The clear lack of forethought that Mendoza demonstrated when she allegedly tweeted that she was “[too] drunk” but decided to drive anyway after hours of continuous drinking makes the case against her even stronger than it would have been otherwise.
However, the admissibility of the evidence from Mendoza’s Twitter must be determined by the court. In Rice v. Reliastar Life Insurance Co., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32831 (M.D. La. Mar. 29, 2011), the court struck evidence introduced by the plaintiff from the defendant’s Facebook page because it claimed the evidence was “merely argumentative and prejudicial” and did not “add to the substantive allegations of the complaint.” Thus, while the information gathered from Mendoza’s Twitter does not bode well for her case, the court may deem it inadmissible if it does not provide substantive evidence for the case.
As the popularity of the social media world grows, the appearance of evidence from these sites in court rooms is sure to increase as well. Thus, the laws governing the admissibility of this evidence are sure to be modified and expanded accordingly. Therefore, anyone using sites such as Facebook and Twitter should be sure to think before they type, and any attorney bringing or defending an action has a great source of evidence as well as another preservation obligation.
A special thank you to Cathryn Ryan, an intern at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for her assistance with this blog post.