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Judge Allows Service on Defendant through Facebook

By:  Bethany B. Ingersoll | November 7, 2014

Facebook can now add “process server” to its list of functions thanks to a recent decision by a New York judge.  In Noel B. v. Anna Maria, the judge allowed a petitioner to notify the defendant about pending proceedings via the respondent’s Facebook account after noting that the respondent lacked a physical address for proper service:

However, despite the absence of a physical address, the Petitioner does have a means by which he can contact the Respondent and provide her with notice of the instant proceedings, namely the existence of an active social media account. . . . [T]he 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.

Will this rationale apply only in New York?  Currently, Virginia remains more stringent, at least in theory.  By Virginia statute, service of process can be accomplished on most people only by certain specific methods involving personal delivery, posting or court order of newspaper publication.  See Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-296. Except for certain cases, Virginia also prohibits service of process on Sundays.

However, be aware that Virginia has a catchall statute providing that any type of service is valid in most cases, if the defendant admits or the party suing otherwise can prove, that the process actually was received by the defendant.  See Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-288.  Such admittance of actual notice could be through a post on social media.