Photo of Susanna Moldoveanu

This post is from the non-Reed Smith side of the blog.

Today we discuss two discovery orders from a case in the Northern District of California, Lin v. Solta Medical, Inc.  In this case, Plaintiff, a California resident, alleged that she was burned by a skin treatment she received in Taiwan with the Thermage CPT device manufactured by Defendant.  Plaintiff sought expansive discovery from Defendant while at the same time trying to restrict discovery plainly relevant to her own claims for her damages.  The court didn’t buy it.

The first ruling addresses discovery regarding other models of the device.  Lin v. Solta Med., Inc., No. 21-CV-05062-PJH, 2023 WL 8374740 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 4, 2023).

In written discovery, Plaintiff sought “all complaint files” and “all communications” concerning “any THERMAGE DEVICE.”   Plaintiff argued that these materials were relevant to what the manufacturer knew about the alleged defects and the propensity of the devices to cause burn injuries and what steps the manufacturer took in response.  Plaintiff’s skin treatment was in 2019, but Plaintiff sought complaint files for any earlier generation of the device going back to 2002. 

Per the court’s practice, the parties presented the dispute by joint letter.  The Plaintiff certainly didn’t do herself any favors by not complying with that process, instead asserting that the “areas of dispute are too numerous and complex to sufficiently describe in this brief letter.”  Id. at *2.

On the merits of the dispute, the court agreed with Defendant that discovery requests “should be limited to materials concerning the model or generation of device at issue in the complaint—not any device with the Thermage name on it.”  Id. A ruling excluding evidence of other product models at trial would be a solid win.  This one’s even better—to not have to go through the expense of the discovery at all.

In this same case, Defendant more recently had another good discovery ruling, this one involving discovery of social media posts.  Lin v. Solta Medical, Inc., 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26892 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 15, 2024). 

Plaintiff alleged that she was a social media influencer and sought damages for lost wages to the tune of $4 million, alleging that because of her burns she suffered “cancelled contracts for work as a social media influencer and marketing professional.”  Id.  During discovery Plaintiff produced all posts that she said “either mention the incident or Plaintiff’s injuries, or that depict or discuss Plaintiff’s injuries in any way.”  Id.  But she resisted production of other social media posts. 

The court agreed with Defendant that Plaintiff had to do a full production of the Plaintiff’s Instagram accounts—not just those that mention or depict her injuries.  This included not only Plaintiff’s public account, but her private Instagram account as well.  The court agreed that these posts were “highly relevant” to both her claim for lost wages as a social media influencer and her claim for emotional injuries.  Id.

This may well be a case of a plaintiff now regretting overinflating the reach of her social media influence, but the result is right.  It is black-letter law that any piece of a plaintiff’s alleged damage calculation is the proper subject of discovery, regardless of what online form it may take.