The public relations team at Facebook frequently brags about how everyone uses their website. In late 2014 they published findings indicating that approximately 1.35 billion people use Facebook on a regular basis. That number is about equal to the population of China.
The statistics are staggering. Facebook is without question a wonderful method for staying in touch with friends and sharing funny cat videos, and the legal community is beginning to notice that so many people check in with social media on a regular basis.
You’ve Been Served … on Facebook
Recent rulings by more than one judge indicate that Facebook is gaining ground as a means for service of process. Whenever a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is started all involved parties must be notified. The trouble is that some people, whether it’s intentional or not, are very good at not being served with legal papers. Some of them don’t maintain a permanent address and don’t have regular employment. This makes it virtually impossible to serve them in the traditional way. However, service by Facebook is helping the courts to track people down even when they’re sleeping on Cousin Larry’s couch and getting paid under the table at the corner bar.
A Process Service Alternative That’s Gaining Favor
Two family law cases recently relied on Facebook for serving legal papers. One was a divorce in which the wife was having trouble tracking down her soon-to-be-ex-husband. She didn’t know where he lived, but she was communicating with him on Facebook. The other case involved child support. A father wished to terminate financial support of his children, who were both over the age of 21. When he couldn’t locate their mother, he thought it was the end of the line. In both cases, the judges allowed service by Facebook.
While these two examples are from family court, the precedent they set is nonetheless relevant to personal injury law. Service by Facebook may be the next big thing.