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Facebook (& Social Media) As A New Method of Service

The notion that a defendant in a suit must have notice of a proceeding against him or her is fundamental to our justice system. To ignore the notice requirement would be a clear violation of our Constitutional right to due process. However, this essential rule makes things tricky when the defendant is intentionally avoiding service.

Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, citation of a lawsuit must be served by (1) delivery the necessary documents to the defendant in person or (2) by mailing the necessary documents by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. When the defendant purposefully avoids receiving such service, or the defendant's location cannot be found, courts may permit substituted service and alternative service. Even then, some wonder about the effectiveness of certain methods in today's world.

Following the "old school" method, the plaintiff could post notice of the suit in the newspaper (after obtaining permission from the judge first). Some of the more enlightened judges are now recognizing that Facebook is actually a much quicker and effective way to serve these sneaky individuals, considering that most people do not read newspapers anymore. While Facebook service is not used until every other option has been exhausted, it is an intriguing idea-could this be the next norm?

A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice permitted a plaintiff to send her husband a divorce suit via private message on Facebook, but also required the plaintiff's attorney to make repeated attempts in order to ensure actual notice. Theoretically, one could wait for the defendant to open the message and quickly screen shot the "Read" notification in order to prove compliance with the court. Certainly, in considering the giant shift away from newspapers, contacting active Facebook users through the messaging services does not seem so crazy.

If you have concerns about initiating a lawsuit because of the tricky defendant, or you are interested in going forward with your suit, contact us at 940/891-4800.

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