NJ Court Greenlights Service of Process Via Facebook

June 19, 2017
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As Social Media Gains Acceptance As High-Tech Alternative, an NJ Court Recently Approved Service of Process via Facebook

What do you check first — your online messages or your traditional mailbox? Given the proliferation of social media platforms, a New Jersey court recently approved service of process via Facebook.

NJ Court Green Lights Service of Process Via Facebook

Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io

Technology and Service of Process

Under the Federal Rules of Procedure, defendants must generally be personally served with a summons and complaint. When traditional forms of service fail, other alternatives are available, such as sending documents via certified mail and newspaper publication. Social media is slowly gaining acceptance as a more high-tech alternative.

In 2015, a New York judge allowed service of process via Facebook in a divorce case. When other methods failed, the court held that service of a divorce summons via a personal message sent through Facebook constituted an appropriate form of alternative service. 

“It would appear that the next frontier in the developing law of the service of process over the Internet is the use of social media sites as forums through which a summons can be delivered,” Judge Matthew Cooper wrote in Baidoo v Blood-Dzraku. To ensure that the defendant would receive notice of the proceedings, Judge Cooper required the plaintiff to provide evidence confirming that the Facebook account belonged to the defendant and that he logged in regularly.

NJ Judge Sanctions Social Media Service

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s Committee on Opinions recently approved a similar New Jersey decision for publication. In the opinion, dated April 11, 2016, Judge Stephan Hansbury held that “service via Facebook is reasonably calculated to apprise the account holder of the pendency of the action and afford him or her an opportunity to defend against plaintiffs’ claims.” 

In the suit, the parents of an adopted child, identified as Z.A., sought to enjoin the defendant from holding himself out as the biological father of their son and to compel the defendant to remove information pertaining to Z.A. that he has allegedly published online. According to court documents, the defendant was a “complete stranger” to the plaintiffs and only became known to them after he started posted pictures of their son on his Facebook page.

After service of process via mail and certified mail failed, their attorney asked to use social media. The court agreed. “The account holder’s recent activity indicates that the account is active and that receipt of the documents is probable,” Judge Hansbury wrote. “Here, the court is satisfied that the only methods of service available to plaintiffs is Facebook.” The judge also noted that Facebook includes a feature that allows the sender of a message to see whether the recipient has opened it, thus indicating that the recipient is on notice of the message’s contents.

While domestic proceedings account for many of the cases involving service of process via social media, the high-tech method can also be useful for New Jersey business litigation. For instance, Facebook and other platforms could be used to serve homeowners in foreclosure actions, debtors, or business partners/customers located overseas.

Do you have any questions regarding service of process via Facebook? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Robert Levy, at 201-806-3364.