In what may be a historic first for both the legal profession and online social networking, lawyers in Australia convinced a judge to allow them to serve legal documents on a couple using the social network Facebook after failing to serve the documents in person.
The Australian couple had defaulted on their mortgage and have now been served legally binding court papers through the Facebook social network.
Attorney Mark McCormack thought up the Facebook plan after it became obvious that the couple was intentionally avoiding being served with the legal papers.
The couple had failed to respond to numerous emails from McCormack’s law firm and missed a court appearance on Oct 3.
McCormack stated that the couple had basically “vanished”, so he looked to Facebook as a viable alternative to traditional process serving methods.
McCormack said: “It’s somewhat novel. We don’t know of any other lawyer who has used Facebook in this way.”
McCormack also said that he believes there was no other way to find the couple, noting: “They weren’t available at their residence. They no longer worked at the place given in some documents as the last place of their employment.”
The Facebook profiles showed the couples’ birth dates, email addresses and friend lists.
The personal information found on their Facebook profiles was enough to convince the court that Facebook was a legally viable method for contacting the defendants.
However, in giving permission to use the Facebook site, the judge required that the legal documents be sent via private email so that other Facebook users could not read the contents of the papers.
Courts have previously allowed judgements to be sent by email, but it is not known if Facebook or any other social networks have been used for this type of process serving.
The Facebook social network currently has more than 140 million users.