You’ve Been Served … Over Facebook?

By Justin Lafferty 

Courts all over the world have been dealing with the strange but growing trend of serving lawsuits via Facebook. Now, a New York lawyer believes that it might soon be legal in the United States to serve someone over the social network.

Long Island, N.Y.-based attorney Pedram Tabibi wrote on the Long Island Business News‘ website that the practice of serving a lawsuit over Facebook in the U.S. might not be that far-fetched. He cited a court case where a judge told Chase Bank that the company could not use Facebook to track down and serve a woman who falsified information to gain a credit card.

Tabibi writes that even though that judge struck down that order, there was a twist:

Ultimately, (United States Southern District of New York Judge John) Keenan authorized service on the individual by publication in four local newspapers covering four areas where Fortunato had listed addresses, plus, interestingly, a fifth area that was listed on Fortunato’s Facebook page as her current location.  So even though Facebook service of process was not ultimately sanctioned, service of process was effected nonetheless by Facebook.

While tracking a person down via Facebook seems logical given the amount of information people are willing to post, it also has the drawback that it might not always be current. If a prosecutor tried to serve a lawsuit via Facebook, the person could also be gone or on vacation, unable to see that they have a lawsuit pending.

Tabibi notes that it’s interesting to think about, and it could change how lawsuits are served:

On the bright side, it could significantly reduce costs and complexity for service of process.  Additionally, an individual is more likely in current times to see a Facebook message or email than the same individual is to scour local newspapers to see if they have been named in a lawsuit.  On the negative side, it could deprive an individual of a fair and full opportunity to defend oneself, especially when something goes awry digitally, like a service of process email is sent to a spam folder.  Nonetheless, this as an extremely interesting topic worth keeping an eye on.

Readers: How would you feel if a judge ruled that it was OK to use Facebook to serve a lawsuit?