Court Proceedings to be served via Facebook

The English High Court has approved the use of Facebook for a claim to be served on a Defendant.

Mr Justice Teare has approved the use of Facebook as a means of serving a claim form after there were difficulties locating one of the parties in a commercial claim. The case involves a claim by AKO Capital LLP and AKO Master Fund Ltd seeking the recovery of monies allegedly over charged by their broker. The High Court allowed the use of the social networking site after it became difficult to locate one of the parties.

This decision has followed Australian and New Zealand cases whereby the courts have allowed service of proceedings through social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

Traditionally, court documents must be served on a party either by personal service, by post or through their solicitors. However if service cannot be achieved through these means the courts have stated that they are now not afraid to embrace the use of social media.

In Australia, the case of MKM Capital Property Limited v Carmela Rita Corbo and Gordon Kinsley Maxwell Poyser saw the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court allow a default judgment to be served on the Defendants by a private message via Facebook. Printouts of the Defendant’s Facebook profiles including personal details were produced to the court and they were satisfied that the default judgment would reasonably be expected to be brought to the Defendant’s attention.

The Canadian Court in Knott v Sutherland [2009] allowed service on an individual Defendant by sending a notice to the Defendant’s Facebook page as substituted service. The New Zealand courts in 2008 granted leave for service of court documents via Facebook on an individual whose whereabouts were unknown. Newspaper advertising could not be effectively targeted and it was clear that the defendants had undertaken banking transactions online (Axe Market Gardens Ltd v Axe).

In 2009 the High Court in the Blaney v Persons Unknown case allowed a Claimant to serve an injunction against an anonymous Twitter user by sending a sending a direct message containing a link to the injunction.

These cases illustrate the courts willingness to take a pragmatic attitude towards means of service when the Defendant is difficult to locate.