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Man's MySpace page torpedoes personal injury suit

Judge: 'Hell on earth' claims undermined

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A computer animator's $2.5m personal injury lawsuit suffered a near-fatal blow thanks in part to MySpace postings that undermined claims his life had become "hell on earth."

Eric Sedie of Corte Madera, California testified that as a result of injuries sustained during a 2006 collision with a United States Postal Service truck "every possible aspect of his life has been and will be affected until the day he dies," according to court documents. That included riding his bicycle, painting, and any vigorous activity.

In a ruling issued last week, US Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte cast a skeptical eye toward those claims saying Sedie's "testimony revealed a pattern of exaggerations and inconsistencies" regarding his physical injuries. One of the exhibits she said contradicted his claims: a June 2007 MySpace entry "in which he described painting as a frustrating activity when his arm hairs would get caught in paint."

Sedie had testified the posting "was a joke, but the court did not find the testimony credible," Laporte said.

As a result of the "inconsistencies," which were also included in Facebook postings, surveillance videos and testimony from expert witnesses, the magistrate judge awarded Sedie $297,624.66, instead of the $2.5m he had been seeking.

The ruling is a potent reminder that cyberspace, despite the remote-sounding echo of the term, is a real place with real connections to courts of law, jobs and other key parts of our lives. The security team of a "mid-sized bank" recently received this same rude awakening when employees' Facebook profiles leaked crucial details allowing penetration testers from Netragard to burrow deep into the organization's IT department.

What we say and do online has real consequences for the rest of our lives. Just ask Eric Sedie. ®

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