Canadian Courts are beginning to accept service via Facebook.
Recently, my colleague was able to persuade Justice Susan Healey of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that substituted service of a statement of claim on a defendant via Facebook was appropriate (see the unreported decision of Juzytsch v. Terlecki from the court in Barrie, Ont.). Other provincial courts have similarly allowed service via Facebook or similar Internet message board services, including in Alberta and British Columbia.
To succeed in any such motion, counsel must establish that the person’s whereabouts for personal service are unknown despite diligent investigation; the Facebook profile belongs to the person in question; and the person is an active user of Facebook such that the claim will likely come to the person’s attention.
While the case law has focused on service through Facebook, the courts could also consider substituted service through other popular social networking web sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
The movement to allow service through Facebook reflects the court’s willingness to consider practical and economical solutions. The requirement for hand-delivered document service, while historically sensible, is somewhat archaic in this electronic age. Successful service should be all about making sure that the person is aware of the document. For those of us who are more present online than offline, receiving vital information electronically is commonplace.
With ongoing efforts to reduce the costs of litigation and the court process, electronic service should become the norm rather than the exception.
Darcy Merkur is a partner at Thomson Rogers in Toronto practising plaintiff’s personal injury litigation, including plaintiff’s motor vehicle litigation. He’s a certified specialist in civil litigation and creator of the Personal Injury Damages Calculator. The order for substituted service through Facebook in the Barrie case mentioned above was obtained by his colleague, Robert Ben, an associate at Thomson Rogers.