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Firm entitled to serve legal documents via Facebook, High Court rules

The High Court has ruled that legal claims can be served through Facebook after uncertainty was expressed about the postal address of one of defendants, according to a newspaper report.22 Feb 2012

Mr Justice Teare made the ruling in a case involving a dispute about the liability for commission charges, according to the Daily Telegraph.

A firm of investment brokers is refuting claims that it overcharged commission and is liable to pay back the money to two investment management companies. The firm said that if the court rules that it is liable two employees should be jointly responsible for repaying the money it owes. The firm asked the court if it could serve documents on one of the employees via Facebook after doubt was raised over whether the man still lived at the address that the documents were initially sent to.

Mr Justice Teare ruled that the documents could be served via Facebook after hearing evidence that the man was active on the site and that it was an authentic account belonging to him, according to the Daily Telegraph's report

The County Court has previously ruled that legal claims could be served via Facebook. However, this is the first time the High Court has issued such a ruling in relation to the social networking site, according to the Telegraph. The High Court has previously issued an injunction to a Twitter user via the micro-blogging site after their real identity could not be easily established.

Under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) in England and Wales claimants in court cases are generally required to serve documents on defendants at the address they live at but courts can authorise the serving of documents at another "place" if there is "a good reason" to do so. The CPR state that "the court may make an order permitting service by an alternative method or at an alternative place". Applications for such an order "must be supported by evidence," the CPR state.

"This ruling demonstrates that the courts are acknowledging the fact that social media platforms are now used as an important means of communication and that they consider such platforms as a ‘non-traditional method/place of service’," technology law expert Claire McCracken of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said.

"I do not think, however, that the ruling will lead to a deluge of attempts to serve proceedings this way, as claimants will still need to show that they have attempted service by traditional means, or that there was ‘good reason’ for them not doing so".