Law.com recently released an article titled Serving Via Social Media: California Suit Shows Possibilities, but Change Takes Time. Law.com reached out to DGR for comments on the topic, given our expertise in handling numerous instances of social media service and serving the first instances of electronic service by Instagram and LinkedIn. We’re going to go through the quotes one by one to give you even more insight on what’s happening in the world of electronic service of process and what you can expect if you are looking for an order to serve through this method.
“It’s definitely becoming more accepted,” added Amanda Sexton, director of corporate development at DGR Legal. “We’ve been seeing these cases occur more frequently, but [they are] rare in comparison to the overall number of services nationwide. It seems these cases are likely happening more often than we realize, but without reporting coverage or a written opinion by a Judge we simply don’t know about them.”
DGR has handled countless instances of electronic service of process, especially via Facebook, where no one would know about it otherwise as there was no news coverage or published opinion on the order. Without this type of public awareness of these cases, it wouldn’t be surprising to imagine that service via social media is becoming even more commonplace than people know about.
Sexton agreed that traditional methods of services will still be more commonly used than social media. She explained that “without full due diligence—attempts at personal service and to locate another address for the person through an investigation, postal service check, etc.—service via social media can’t be approved.”
Judges seek to make sure all adequate due diligence has been completed in attempting to effectuate personal service. Lawyers shouldn’t expect judges to ever approve any type of alternate service, including electronically, without a substantiated effort to serve the subject personally. Expect the same level of due diligence as is required with posting, mailing or publication and sometimes even more, as this newer method of alternate service still causes reservations among many in the legal community.
Specifically, in the California case, it “seems more a case of social media service as a supplement to more common methods of alternate service, as service via publication was also ordered,” she said. Given the details of the judge’s order, “in conjunction with typical methods of alternate service and also mailed to the last known address, it’s unlikely any service challenge would be entertained by the court. If service was only completed via Twitter, then there would be more ground to stand on to contest the service, but that’s not the case here.”
In many of the cases where we serve via social media, it’s rare that the social media channel will be the only avenue of service. Typically the social media service is backed up with mailings at the last known address or a similar method. Doing so leaves less room to contest the service.
Sexton also explained that overall, judges also typically ensure adequate due diligence has been completed in initial personal service, that the account belongs to the subject and that the account is active, having been used recently.
Personal service will continue to be the golden standard when it comes to process service. At no point does it appear that electronic service of process could serve as an adequate substitute to ensuring that an individual receives the documents personally. As with most secondary methods of service such as publication, there are some questions with electronic service as to whether or not the intended recipient actually saw the notice. With personal service there is never any doubt as to the individual’s knowledge of the matter.
“As an alternate method of service this could certainly be the new go-to in order to effectuate service,” agreed Sexton. “With the billions of people who have social media accounts and the decreasing readership of newspaper and standard avenues for service via publication, it makes more sense to serve in a way someone is most likely to receive notice.”
The entire purpose of service of process is to ensure notice is given to those involved. If a person has an active social media account they frequently check, then it would make sense to serve them there versus antiquated methods such as publication in a newspaper. With dwindling readership numbers for newspapers and booming user rates for social media platforms, it makes sense to shift to an alternate method of service most likely to be received.
Have questions on social media service or what to include in a request for alternate service through this method? We’re happy to help – get in touch!