Service of Documents by Social Media

We have seen a few published cases where a court will order the service of a document by way of a defendant’s social media account.

I had the occasion today to talk to a couple of lawyers who do collection work. Anecdotally at least, the actual practice seems to vary by province and location. That is not surprising considering how new the concept is, how traditionally lawyers and judges tend to think, and how rules of practice differ.

A lawyer from Alberta mentioned how they routinely obtain orders to serve documents by facebook. He commented that it is acknowledged that this kind of service against a person who can’t be found or evades service is in practice much more effective than the traditional method of advertising in a newspaper. And far cheaper as well.

The same lawyer mentioned how they often service documents via email. His office will phone a defendant, and ask if they can serve the claim by email, explaining that service by email will result in smaller costs being assessed as part of the judgement. They then have the court approve the service after the fact based on an affidavit of the person who made the call and sent it by email. It can cost less for them to do that than to pay a process server.

Wondering what other litigators have been doing in practice to take advantage of social media and electronic communication?


  1. Technology kills off another occupation. The process server business takes a hit from the Internet.

    It is truly remarkable how far reaching and powerful the Internet and its many impacts go.

    I wonder if anyone knows what the new jobs are that are replacing the process server jobs that have been lost?

    Will lawyers keep their occupations?

    Time shall tell.

  2. Well, first of all, this isn’t really taking work away from process servers. An applicant in BC seeking an order of substituted service must demonstrate reasonable steps were taken to locate the person to be served, and if found, that reasonable efforts to serve him were made. It would not be reasonable to Facebook message and poke someone if you knew where they were physically located without trying to personally serve them.
    As for email, if someone purports to accept service by any mail, email or fax means (and the court rules say that is OK) then it’s really no different than service by fax by consent. What is interesting is that where smaller value claims are involved, proportionality is now applicable to considerations in BC (per the new civil rules), and a request to effect substituted service by Facebook or email will be easier to make if expensive alternatives to personal service don’t mesh with the relative dollar amount of the claim.
    Other clever uses of technology actually make the process server’s job easier, as this snippet from Wes McMillan’s blog on our website shows:

    In my practice I had to have a judgment debtor served personally with a subpoena to debtor. This debtor had evaded service in the past. While his address was known, he resided in a building in which guests could only gain access to the floor of the resident who buzzed them in. Rather than pay a process server to sit outside the building and hopefully get buzzed in to the right floor (and then hope the debtor was home and would answer his door), I conducted a Google search of the debtor’s name and his business. In less than 30 minutes I had his softball team’s schedule. Shortly thereafter he was served. I believe he was playing 3rd base at the time of service.”

  3. David,

    Are those on the receiving end of the service-by-facebook regular facebook users or is it instead being used as a replacement to advertising in a newspaper in general?