As explained in previous articles, including the one implicating alleged defamatory statements published on Facebook, technology continues to impact our legal system, with new developments springing every day. The latest such development, of interest to New York legal practice in particular, comes in the form of a decision published on September 12, 2014 out of Richmond County, New York, in the case known as Noel B. v. Anna Marie A. The decision is novel in that it explicitly permitted service of process via Facebook.
Service of process refers to the delivery of the summons and complaint to a defendant. It is a critical step, without which the action cannot proceed to judgment. The summons and the complaint are the two documents required to initiate a legal claim in court. The basic rule in all jurisdictions is that service of process has to be effectuated by personal service. However, when this is not possible, the Court may be asked to allow for substituted service, which historically included service my mail, registered mail, publication in a local newspaper, service on some other person either related or linked to the Defendant, etc. In this most recent case, the Court permitted substituted service via a Facebook posting and more particularly explained as follows:
“While this court is not aware of any published decision wherein a New York state court has authorized service of process by means of social media, other jurisdictions have allowed such service. See Hoshere, Inc. v. Orun, 2014 WL 670817 (E.D. Va.), Federal Trade Commission v. PCCare247 Inc., 2013 WL 841037 (S.D.N.Y.). The court notes that in both those matters service via Facebook was directed to be made in connection with other means of service. Pursuant to CPLR § 308(5) the court authorizes substituted service by the following method: the Petitioner is to send a digital copy of the summons and petition to the Respondent via the Facebook account, and follow up with a mailing of those same documents to the previously used last known address. The Respondent can receive communications via social media, whereas her actual physical whereabouts are uncertain. The method detailed here by the court provides the best chance of the Respondent getting actual notice of these proceedings.”
Robert S. Popescu, Esq.
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