Texas State Representative Jeff Leach R-Plano (full disclosure – he is a lawyer in our Dallas office) proposed a bill (HB 1989) that would allow service via social media if the more traditional methods did not work first.
Normally, to serve someone with a lawsuit you have to have the petition and citation delivered to them in person or through certified mail so the courts are certain the defendant knows they have been sued.
There is already a process in place to allow for substituted service if there is reason to believe a defendant is purposefully “ducking” or avoiding service. Usually, it means dropping the papers off at the person’s residence with anyone over the age of 16 or publication.
The current rules also allow a judge to authorize service “in any other manner that the . . . evidence . . . shows will be reasonably effective to give the defendant notice of the suit.” This proposal would expressly add “social media” as an additional substituted method.
Because the proposal comes from a lawyer in our firm, I will defer on providing my opinion here on the blog, but tell me what you think of the proposal in the comments.
It has been done before but there are some concerns about authentication according to Bradley Shear of Shear on Social Media. Legal Language Services, a commercial enterprise that helps effectuate service, mirrors Bradley’s concerns and provides some additional background on service via email and social media.
Here is the actual text of pertinent parts of the bill:
Sec. 17.031. SUBSTITUTED SERVICE THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE.
(a) If substituted service of citation is authorized under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the court may prescribe as a method of service under those rules an electronic communication sent to the defendant through a social media website if the court finds that:
(1) the defendant maintains a social media page on that website;
(2) the profile on the social media page is the profile of the defendant;
(3) the defendant regularly accesses the social media page account; and
(4) the defendant could reasonably be expected to receive actual notice if the electronic communication were sent to the defendant’s account.
Check out our prior Texas Leg Watch 2013 on the proposal prohibiting employers from asking for social media passwords.