Serving Legal Documents in the Age of Social Media

A Ontario court has taken constructive notice and service of legal documents into the age of digital social media.

Hashtag #Served

According to Canadian Lawyer magazine, Ontario lawyer, Tara Vasdani, recently convinced the court to allow for service of legal documents over Instagram and LinkedIn.

Vasdani first attempted to serve the defendant on Sept. 1, 2017, using a physical address, and her process servers were told the defendant had moved away. She then tried using email, with a read receipt, but her messages were either ignored or never read. Vasdani then looked up the defendant on LinkedIn and contacted her last listed employer, who told her the person never worked there.

When Vasdani could not find the defendant on other social media sites, she turned to Instagram, which the lawyer says she uses much more than Facebook or other apps.

Having found the defendant on Instagram, Vasdani brought a motion in court asking if she could serve the defendant through Instagram and LinkedIn.

The court agreed, treating service as effected five days after notice was conveyed through social media. Notably, the court did not require a read receipt be obtained to effect service, making this Insta-service more akin to service by publication than by certified mail.

This may be the first service of process on Instagram or LinkedIn, but it’s not the first time social media has been used to notify a party of legal proceedings against them. At least two American courts have allowed service via Facebook in the past. In 2011, a trail-blazing Minnesota court allowed service of divorce proceedings via Facebook, Myspace or any other social networking site.” Not too long after, in 2014, a Staten Island court acted similarly, allowing a man to serve his ex-wife over Facebook, after other attempts to contact her failed.

Is such service an affront to tradition, to due process, to the gravity of the law?  Vasdani, thinks not. “In order to avoid becoming obsolete, it is our duty to evolve with society—and one of the concrete and surefire ways society is evolving is through technology,” she explains.