Thursday, January 23, 2014

Precedent for Serving Court Documents via Facebook

Service of Documents by Facebook?

Gregory, J. (2014). 

An article in this week’s Law Times notes another court decision, this time in Ontario, approving substitute service by Facebook. In other words, counsel showed the court that there was no other reasonable way of getting the documents to the party to be served, and that sending to FB was likely to reach the party.

The author says that this should be the norm.
The requirement for hand-delivered document service, while historically sensible, is somewhat archaic in this electronic age. Successful service should be all about making sure that the person is aware of the document. For those of us who are more present online than offline, receiving vital information electronically is commonplace.
Does this make sense to you? How does one make sure that a person served via Facebook (or another social medium, such as Twitter, etc) is aware of the document? Suppose the person denies having received it, later. Is independent evidence of delivery available?
For that matter, many people on Facebook do not have pictures on their pages. How does one know one has the right John Smith, especially if such service becomes ‘the norm rather than an exception’?

Background & Legal case

Personal Injury Law: Service via Facebook should become the norm

Merkur, D. (2014). Law Times.

Ontario Superior Court of Justice that substituted service of a statement of claim on a defendant via Facebook was appropriate (see the unreported decision of Juzytsch v. Terlecki from the court in Barrie, Ont.). Other provincial courts have similarly allowed service via Facebook or similar Internet message board services, including in Alberta and British Columbia.

To succeed in any such motion, counsel must establish that the person’s whereabouts for personal service are unknown despite diligent investigation; the Facebook profile belongs to the person in question; and the person is an active user of Facebook such that the claim will likely come to the person’s attention.

While the case law has focused on service through Facebook, the courts could also consider substituted service through other popular social networking web sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

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