U.S. Trial Courts Now Allow Service by Facebook and LinkedIn, but Will Appellate Courts Agree?

04 November 2014 Publication
Authors: Peter Vogel Sara Ann Brown

Bloomberg BNA Social Media Law & Policy Report

Personal service to an opposing party—the hand delivery of a citation in a lawsuit—has been a cornerstone of American jurisprudence for centuries. For
just as long, the law has allowed courts to authorize alternate methods of service when a defendant in a new lawsuit cannot be found. These alternate methods have allowed plaintiffs to serve a defendant by merely posting a notice on the courthouse door or publishing a notice in the local newspaper. In a different era and certainly before the ubiquitous use of cell devices and social media, notice on a courthouse door or in a newspaper may have been the most reasonable way to notify a missing defendant, but today in the age of the Internet, there are more pragmatic means by which to serve a missing defendant, and courts are beginning to recognize this shift.

Indeed, given the ubiquitous nature of social media—with estimates that about 75 percent of the U.S. population currently uses social media sites—it is no wonder that U.S. courts have now permitted substituted service through social media. The trend to use social media for service started in 2008 in Australia, and so it seemed inevitable that U.S. courts would eventually permit service through social media.

But several questions loom large. Will substituted service on social media be approved by the appellate courts? And will service by social media eventually replace personal service as a primary method of service?

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