CHICAGO (CN) – A design firm must face allegations that it inappropriately posted marketing updates on an employee’s personal Twitter and Facebook accounts while she was in the hospital for serious brain trauma, a federal judge ruled.
As a marketing director for Susan Fredman Design Group in Chicago, Jill Maremont gained a reputation in the city’s interior design community. Her personal Twitter account has approximately 1,250 followers.
Maremont also created Twitter and Facebook accounts for her employer to beef up its social media campaign. Though Maremont stored access information for the work and personal accounts in a locked folder on an office computer, she never authorized anyone to access her personal accounts.
In September 2009, a car hit Maremont while she was running an errand for work. She suffered serious brain trauma and had to be hospitalized for a week.
During that week, however, Susan Fredman posted 17 tweets on Maremont’s Twitter account, promoting the company. The company also posted entries on Maremont’s Facebook page and accepted at least five friend requests. Maremont asked her employer to stop co-workers from posting on her personal accounts, but the company did not honor her request.
Maremont filed suit last year, alleging that Susan Fredman used her identity to endorse their services without her permission, and violated the Stored Communications Act and Illinois Right to Privacy Act.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve refused to dismiss the case last week, but she did toss Maremont’s Right to Privacy Act claim because the company did not try to impersonate Maremont when posting Tweets and Facebook updates on her accounts.
“It is undisputed that Maremont created a personal following on Twitter and Facebook for her own economic benefit, because if she left her employment at Susan Fredman, she would promote another employer with her Facebook and Twitter followers,” St. Eve wrote.
“As such, Maremont has a protected, commercial interest in her name and identify within the Chicago design community,” she added.
St. Eve also found that Susan Fredman may have violated the Stored Communications Act by using Maremont’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
“There are disputed issues of material fact whether defendants exceeded their authority in obtaining access to Maremont’s personal accounts,” the 15-page decision states.
Before St. Eve can address whether Maremont suffered actual injury or if Susan Fredman was unjustly enriched, the parties must complete fact discovery.