Did you ever wonder where the expression, “to read the Riot Act” comes from? Well, if not, you are probably wondering now. So here’s the explanation: The so called “Riot Act” was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain when the USA was still part of Great Britain (1715). It authorized the government to declare any assembled group of twelve or more people unlawful, and force them to disperse. Before the group could be arrested or punished for illegal assembly, the authorities had to read aloud the Act as a warning to disburse. The phrase “to read the Riot Act” thus came to mean more generally any situation where an authority delivers a stern reprimand or warning to someone indicating that they must change their behavior or else suffer dire consequences.
A recent Court of Appeals (New York’s top court) Decision has New York personal injury lawyers “reading the Riot Act” to their clients. Before I can tell you why the “Riot Act” is being read to New York personal injury claimants, I have to first explain the Court’s ruling.
In Forman v. Henkin the Court held that, when you sue someone for personal injuries, their lawyers can get access not only to your “public” Facebook posts, but also – under certain circumstances — to the ones you posted under your “privacy” settings. Those private postings do not automatically need to be disclosed to the insurance company lawyer, but those lawyers – whose goal is to defeat your claim — can force you to turn them over by showing they are reasonably likely to be relevant to the credibility of your injury claims.