When someone is sued, the procedures for “serving” the defendant (i.e., the procedures for delivering court papers to the person being sued) are stated in court rules. Traditionally, “personal service” (i.e., the act of hand-delivering the papers to the defendant) is the preferred method. Court rules provide alternative methods for service when personal service cannot be achieved. As a last resort, a court may specify a procedure for service. A New Jersey trial court recently allowed service by Facebook!
The plaintiffs were the parents of a teenager who was receiving disturbing and suspicious communications via Facebook and Instagram. The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit that included a demand for a temporary restraining order against the defendant, which the court granted. The plaintiffs had no idea of the defendant’s whereabouts, and the communications did not include a telephone number or email address. Attempts to serve the defendant by mail were returned unclaimed and without any forwarding addresses.
Insofar as there was no way to locate the defendant, the court applied a three-prong legal test for fashioning an alternative means of service. Ultimately, the court was satisfied that the Facebook account in question was that of the defendant, that the defendant regularly monitored and used the account, and that Facebook was the only means available to serve the defendant. Accordingly, the court permitted service by Facebook. Shortly after the service by Facebook, the plaintiffs’ attorney received a private message from the defendant, saying, “I will see you in court.” A copy of the screenshot was filed with the court as proof of service.
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Please feel free to contact me if you want more information about the case… Axberg v. Langston.
DISCLAIMER: This BLOG post is provided solely for the general interest of the reader. It is not legal advice or opinion. Legal advice and opinion are provided by the firm only upon engagement with respect to specific factual situations.