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Is Legal Service by Facebook Coming Soon?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 23, 2012 5:01 AM

Sometimes it's difficult to serve a defendant. There are those that live alone, which means you can't leave the summons at their perpetually empty home. The unemployed and couch-hopping are also impossible to track down. What are you supposed to do?

Service by publication is an option in a number of jurisdictions, but again, it, too can be a crap shoot. But what if there was another option? What if the law permitted service by Facebook and other social media sites?

This option may now be universally available to those litigating in the U.K. A judge sitting on the High Court has allowed attorneys for TFS Derivatives to serve a former employee via Facebook. They've tried to track him down, but the Telegraph reports that he no longer lives at his last known address.

Once attorneys send the summons via Facebook, presumably by private message, the man has 14 days to respond.

This is not the first time a court has allowed service by Facebook or social media. In 2009, the High Court allowed an injunction to be served on an anonymous blogger via Twitter. The practice has also become more common in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, according to the Telegraph.

It, however, has yet to come to the U.S.

Admittedly, there are concerns about whether people on social media are who they say they are. It would also be unfair to serve someone who doesn't actively use an account. A court would therefore need to conduct an inquiry before it permits service by Facebook or social media.

The U.K. judge recognized this, and asked TFS to verify the account. The man is still Facebook friends with current employees who have seen recent activity on the account. Only after hearing this did the judge approve service by Facebook.

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