Social media took center stage last month at trial over the injuries a Georgia woman received in a tractor-trailer crash, with Carlock Copeland’s Fred Valz using the woman’s online posts to help key a verdict that was a fraction of what she sought.
Dilyara Akhundov claims she suffered long-term back neck, wrist, and knee injuries in 2013 when a tractor trailer driven by Juan Ramos for Unimex Logistics hit her car on I-85.
In the two-day trial on damages, Akhundov’s attorneys sought more than $729,000, and contended she would suffer debilitating back and wrist pain for the rest of her life.
But in arguing Akhundov’s injuries had resolved within 14 months of the crash, the defense painted Akhundov as an aspiring actress who had regularly auditioned for roles after the wreck. At trial, Valz walked Akhundov through her Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as a filmography showing she had allegedly appeared on a talk show and acted on TV series after the collision.
Akhundov countered the posts were largely promotional and did not reflect the severity of her injuries. “That’s my social media, sir. That’s not me sitting in court under oath. That’s social media, to be social.”
But in closings, Valz argued the posts showed Akhundov was not hindered by the wreck. “We do believe the social media shows very clearly that she was living a full and active life,” Valz said, arguing a damage award between $74,000 and $178,000 was appropriate.
Moreover, Valz suggested deletions in Akhundov’s posts could be telling. Valz noted Akhundov had deleted some social media posts, despite the defense’s request to preserve them for discovery. “There’s a time period in there where you won’t have any photos,” Valz added, arguing the evidence’s spoliation warranted an inference against Akhundov.
The jury took about 45 minutes to hand down a $200,000 verdict.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.