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The Progression of Technology in Service of Process

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | May 22, 2017 |


In K.A. & K.I.A. v. J.L., the Chancery Division in Morris County became the first New Jersey court to allow service of process through social media. The defendant initiated contact with the plaintiffs through Facebook & Instagram, sending friend requests to K.A. & other family members to make the claim that he was the biological father of K.A.’s adopted son and that he knew the location of the child’s birth mother and siblings. Additionally, K.A. alleged that the defendant took a picture of the child from K.A.’s Facebook profile and held the photograph out on his own profile page as pictures of his children. Attempting to put a stop to this distressing and disruptive behavior, plaintiff’s attorney mailed cease and desist orders to two last known addresses of the defendant, both in Pennsylvania. The mail was returned as undeliverable, and plaintiff asked the court to serve an injunction on the defendant through Facebook.

In analyzing whether the court was able to assert personal jurisdiction over the defendant, it considered that the defendant was assumed to be out-of-state based on his last known addresses. The court found that the defendant had knowingly reached out to the plaintiffs & members of the plaintiff’s family, who are all residents of New Jersey, and this was sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction.

Turning to the requirement that defendant be served personally, the court found that service on Facebook was reasonably calculated to alert the defendant to the action and afford him an opportunity to defend against the claims. Personal service could not be accomplished and service through publication was inefficient based on the nature of the relief sought. The Facebook account showed recent activity which indicated that the defendant would be likely to receive the documents, and the existence of “read receipts” in Facebook messaging would indicate that the documents reached their intended target. These same facts satisfy the constitutional requirement of due process. As a parting remark, the court noted that the defendant appeared by phone at the hearing, establishing that he did receive notice by this method of service.