Facebook serves a legal purpose

by Louise Worton

Social media sites have begun to play a part in the UK legal system.

The observation was made by Dispute Resolution lawyer Louise Worton following a landmark High Court ruling that saw Mr Justice Teare grant permission to serve a claim via Facebook.

While the courts have previously approved the use of Facebook and Twitter for this purpose this is the first time that service via Facebook has been reported at this level.

Louise said: “This is an interesting case that shows the courts are prepared to permit the use of new technology within litigation and will hopefully reduce the opportunity for defendants to evade service.”

In the recent High Court case, Mr Justice Teare heard how the defendant had submitted an application to add a party – Fabio De Biase – to existing proceedings. The defendant had served the claim on Mr De Biase at his last known address but applied to the court for permission to serve via Facebook because there was doubt over whether he still lived at that address.

The court was provided with evidence demonstrating the Facebook account belonged to the intended defendant and was active.

Louise said that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter may well to be used to serve more court documents in the future but only once traditional methods have failed.

“Using Facebook should be very much a last resort and an exception to the usual rules regarding service,” she said. “To serve a claim form or other documents by anything other than the accepted methods of service requires the permission of the court - it will be necessary to justify why the normal service methods are not appropriate and persuade the judge that the proposed method will effect good service.”