Modern times call for modern approaches to how legal documents are served.
The English High Court agrees.
In 2012, the High Court ruled that a legal document could be served through Facebook when alternative methods of contact could not be found.
In 2015, over in Manhattan, the Supreme Court ruled that divorce papers could be served through a Facebook private message.
So, when can legal documents be served through Facebook?
To use a popular Facebook term: it’s complicated.
Each case is unique.
Personal service is ideal. This is when legal documents are served face-to-face. In these situations, you know that the document has reached its intended recipient.
Sometimes, face-to-face isn’t an option. Some people can be particularly hard to track down. They might spend their time on Facebook, but be extremely difficult to find at any physical address. They may not be in employment, or may be deliberately flying under the radar and almost impossible to find. In these cases, serving legal documents through Facebook may be the most suitable option.
It is important to have evidence that the document’s recipient regularly uses their Facebook account. They have to be given a reasonable chance to have seen the document that’s been served. They might also have to acknowledge that they’ve seen it. Facebook’s ‘Seen’ notification in any private messaging conversation should give this away, but can be manipulated by anyone with know-how.
Importantly, the documents also need to be sent to the right person. There are thousands of David Smiths around the world, and so it is important to be sure that the message reaches the right one.
How can documents be served through Facebook?
This varies, too.
Process serving might involve delivering the documents through Facebook itself – perhaps in the form of a PDF sent in a private conversation.
Alternatively, courts might approve that the defendant can be sent details of the physical location of their documents. In these cases, they’ll need to collect the documents in person.
Process Serving and Social Media
Using social media to serve legal documents is not commonplace…yet.
But, the precedent has been set.
The more times this option is used, the more likely it is that that someone’s next Facebook notification could be one to pay extra attention to.