An estimated 140 million folks use Facebook worldwide, but this is the first story about legal notice of a lawsuit through a social network. The law has never been fast to move, and there’s no reason to believe that any other country will adopt Facebook as a means of legal service, but this is an interesting story. Since the plaintiff had no success with direct service at the home of defendants, or by defendants’ email, apparently there was a match from the mortgage application with both defendants homeowners to their Facebook pages. The judge ordered that the notice be a private message and after posting this message the defendants have 7 days to respond.
Legal Service and Default
Most people are familiar with personal service where a party actually receives a written notice, and that’s easy to follow. Depending on state and federal laws in the US, service may be accomplished by leaving written notice on some one’s door, publishing a newspaper notice, or sending a certified letter with return receipt. So if the defendants do not respond after proper legal notice, courts will issues default orders against them for failing to participate in the lawsuit. That means the defendant loses by failure to respond. Of course most defaults orders can be set aside if the defendant can show that they were not properly served and given notice of the lawsuit.
Social Network Service?
Since so many people regularly visit Facebook and other social networks this service of legal process may be the beginning of a new phase of the law adapting to use of the Internet. Given all the trends, it seems likely that more and more individuals will participate in social networks. As well, the age of social network visitors has changed from being primarily for college age to middle age, so a broader spectrum of the population is using social networks. One can wonder if we will see service of legal process to avatars in virtual worlds such as Second Life. As the Internet evolves clearly legal process will have to keep up, and where else can we be found except sitting at our computers/laptops/PDAs attached to the Internet?