Is e-Service Via Social Media Appropriate? Possibly.

Over the past 15 years, the electronic process of service (“e-service”) has become more and more popular. The manner in which American courts have permitted e-service in domestic and international lawsuits has changed the legal landscape—and it continues to do so. Below is some basic information on e-service and why this issue is important for anyone in the legal industry.


History of e-Service


E-service is not a novice process, as the first case of service via e-mail occurred in Rio Properties, Inc. v. Rio International Interlink. In this case, Plaintiff (a Nevada hotel and gambling entity) sued Defendant (a Costa Rica-based internet gambling entity) for trademark infringement. Service was effectuated by regular mail to Defendant’s attorney as well as its international courier and was also effectuated via email. When Defendant failed to comply with discovery orders, the court entered a default judgment. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process, which the trial court denied and Defendant appealed.


E-service through social media, however, did not start happening until 2011 when a court allowed alternative service via Facebook in a divorce case. Since that case, Mpafe v. Mpafe, the approval of e-service has been sporadic across the United States. Most of these cases involved family law matters and were coming out of New York. The decision is Harleysville Insurance v Mega, however, has extended permission of service via social media beyond family law matters. The court required the plaintiff to serve across multiple social media platforms for several weeks, and provide specific proof that it was effectuated.


Service Via Social Media


The court’s opinions in the cases approving the service of process via social media all had similar mandates for approving the method. First, plaintiffs’ counsel had to have undergone adequate due diligence in attempting to serve the defendant(s) personally. Second, the social media account used for the service of process had to belong to the appropriate defendant. Third, there had to be a likelihood that the documents sent via e-service by way of the social media platform would actually be viewed. Currently, the generally available alternative method to personally servicing a defendant is publication. This method can prove expensive—particularly if the plaintiff has to run the notice for multiple weeks across multiple publications. Social media is a viable alternative to publication considering the vast number of users on these platforms and the likelihood of seeing the documents when compared to the decreasing rates of newspaper purchases and subscriptions.


We Can Help


Improper or ineffective service of process can run your case—whether the defendant is located domestically or abroad. Contact Ancillary Legal for all of your litigation support needs. Our experienced team will ensure that your case moves forward properly so that you can focus on litigating. Additionally, if you need assistance with depositions, transcriptions, or videography, please contact us at Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting.