Can A Defendant Be Served via Facebook?
Serving a defendant is not always easy – he may be hard to locate and may do everything in his power to evade service. You may not be able to find a physical address or he could be living half a world away. So what if you could just serve him somewhere where you’ll know the defendant will see it: his Facebook page?
In jurisdictions outside of the United States, more and more courts are allowing service of legal documents and notices through electronic means… even via Facebook and Twitter. In most instances, Facebook or other social media is a last resort when traditional methods fail. However, this is a clear indicator that the way we do business – and practice law – is evolving with technology.
For example, Australia allows substitute service when it is practically impossible to serve the person through personal service and that the proposed alternative method has a reasonable certainty to actually give the person notice. Australian Uniform Civil Procedure Rules, 116(1). This type of substitute service includes providing notice through Facebook. New Zealand is following suit. Canada has also allowed substitute service through Facebook (in addition to other methods) in certain cases. Even back in 2009 a United Kingdom court allowed a blogger to be served via Twitter when he could not be tracked down through other means.
So will this become a trend in the United States as well? That remains to be seen, especially in light of the concerns that social media is not always reliable. For example, it is increasingly easy to impersonate someone online so that the notice may not actually get to the person it is intended for. Despite these concerns, some US courts have become more open to this type of service. Most notably, a Southern District of New York judge allowed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to serve defendants residing in India via email and Facebook after the FTC had difficuly serving the defendants by traditional means. FTC v. PCCare247 Inc., 2013 WL 841037 (S.D.N.Y. March 7, 2013). With the prevalence Facebook and Twitter have in our everyday lives, it is possible other courts will be following suit.
But don’t rush to your computer to serve a summons just yet – even in foreign jurisdictions, service via Facebook or other electronic means is still not yet the norm, but is a last resort or extraordinary method after other means have failed and with the court’s express approval. You will still have to try to hunt that defendant down the old fashion way – US courts still want you use a defendant’s actual address, not his website address.
Contact a lawyer at Edmonds Law Firm Beresford Booth PLLC if you require assistance with legal matters in the Seattle area, Edmonds and throughout Washington State.
Beresford Booth PLLC – Edmonds Washington Lawyers (425.776.4100), www.beresfordlaw.com
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