A recent case highlighted the use of digital evidence and social media in today’s courtrooms. The case, Monet v. Bank of America, involved a dispute over a defaulted loan. In particular, the courts considered the digital evidence submitted by Monet inadequate to win his case. This was mainly due to the inability to authenticate the documents in question.
In today’s busy, web-based world, online evidence can likely be found to help your case. This includes social media posts, web pages and other online documentation. To ensure your social media or online evidence gets admitted into your case however, the courts will require the content to be authenticated.
Understanding the Case
The plaintiff, Christopher Monet, obtained a loan for $868,000 in 2006. A deed of trust on the property secured the loan. When he defaulted on his loan, the bank sold the property at a foreclosure sale. Monet filed a lawsuit against Bank of America and other entities to set aside the foreclosure. His lawsuit charged the bank with negligence and unfair business practices.
In 2009, Monet stopped making payments on his loan. He sent a letter to his lender, Countrywide, and said that he believed he was a victim of predatory lending practices. He asked them to audit his account and provide him with documents.
A few months later, he received a response from Bank of America Home Loans who had taken over the servicing of his loan. Their letter stated that they believed his request was overly broad and unduly burdensome. Yet, the bank agreed to provide information that was consistent with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).
For several years, Monet went back and forth with Bank of America, as well as other entities such as Countrywide. In 2010, Monet sent Bank of America a ‘Notice of Default’ which asserted that they had failed to respond to his request. He asserted that he was never provided with TILA disclosures or Right to Cancel documents.
In 2010, Reconstruct, the original trustee, put his property up for sale. Reconstruct sold the property to HSBC in 2011 at a trustee’s sale.
In 2011, Monet filed his complaint and named Bank of America, MERS, HSBC and Reconstruct as defendants. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. They provided evidence to show that Reconstruct properly foreclosed on the property and Monet did not have a case against them. Monet opposed their motion, but the court ended up granting the defendants’ motion.
Where Did Monet Go Wrong?
Basically, the court ruled with the defendants because Monet filed little evidence to support his opposition to the defendants’ motion. In regard to the evidence that was filed, little of it was properly authenticated. Monet’s opposition relied on his counsel’s declaration and exhibits attached to his first amended complaint.
Monet’s counsel tried to introduce a Facebook screenshot into evidence. This screenshot contained a memorandum from an unnamed source. His counsel also tried to introduce a screenshot from the FDIC website and an excerpt of a form that Countrywide filed with the SEC.
His counsel did not explain who obtained the Facebook screenshot, how it was obtained or who authored it. In addition, his counsel did not state which part of the Federal Rules of Evidence relied upon to request recognition of this evidence.
Proper Authentication of Web Pages and Screenshots
Today’s litigators often use information and material found on the Internet to build up the evidence for their case. Without proper authentication, however, this material may be useless in court. The way in which you capture this information and how you authenticate it is the key to using that evidence in a trial.
Courts are often highly suspicious of anything taken from the Internet. As such, most courts require authentication of a website under Rule 901(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. An experienced social media investigation team can help you find and properly authenticate the evidence you need from the Internet.
Bosco Legal Services, Inc. Offers Extensive Social Media Investigation Services
Contact the social media investigators at Bosco Legal Services, Inc. We provide extensive social media investigations, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. We also investigate other material found on the web.
We can help authenticate key pieces of evidence for your trial, giving you the edge you need to win your case. Call our Riverside office today at (951) 289-5761 to discuss your situation. You can also fill out our online contact form or submit a job online and someone from our office will be in touch with you soon.