Serving Complaints on Facebook? Court Says “No.”

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While use of social media for varying types of communication is becoming more common and widely accepted, a federal court in New York has rejected a party's request to effectuate service of process by means of a Facebook message.

Plaintiff Lorri Fortunata sued defendant Chase Bank USA for wrongful garnishment. Chase later filed a third party complaint against plaintiff's estranged daughter, Nicole, who allegedly opened an unauthorized credit account in her mother's name that resulted in the debt the bank was seeking to collect. After several unsuccessful attempts to serve the complaint on Nicole by way of a traditional process server, Chase asked the court for permission to serve her via a message to her Facebook account.

The court denied the request, stating that "[s]ervice by Facebook is unorthodox, to say the least" and remarking that it was unaware of any other court that has allowed this method of service. The court's primary concern was that the bank had not provided sufficient facts to give the court any degree of certainty that the Facebook account discovered by the bank's investigator was, in fact, maintained by Nicole. The court further noted its understanding that "anyone can make a Facebook profile, using real, fake or incomplete information" and, thus, the court could not rely on a Facebook message to that account as a reasonable means of substituted service under New York's statute. Nevertheless, the court did allow Chase to effect substituted service on Nicole by publication in both The New York Times and a local newspaper in the city of her last known residence.

Might a message to a social media account be sufficient to meet these requirements in the future? Yes, so long as the court can be satisfied that doing so will be reasonably likely to result in providing the served party notice of the pendency of the action and the opportunity to respond.

Review the court's decision in Fortunata v Chase.

 


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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