U.S. Court Permits Service by Facebook Message Against UK Defendant

This post was written by Cynthia O'Donoghue.

A U.S. District court ruled that a UK defendant may be served via Facebook. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Woodward v. Chetvertakov, E.D. Mich., No. 2:13-cv-11943-GER-MKM, ruled it permissible to serve a foreign defendant website operator based in the UK via email and Facebook message, where it was not possible to otherwise locate a physical address for service from the registered address of the defendant’s website.

In this case, the plaintiffs Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady submitted a motion for substituted service under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that they were unable to serve the defendant Evgeniy Chetvertakov, the website operator of Global Gurus Inc., as the registered address listed on the Global Gurus website was not invalid. The plaintiffs were able to provide evidence that the email address listed in the domain registration information for the Global Guru’s website was accepting email messages. The plaintiffs were able to further prove that this same email address was listed under the contact information of Global Guru’s Facebook account. The court therefore granted plaintiffs’ motion for substituted service on Chetvertakov via email and Facebook message. Service was deemed to be complete upon filing by the plaintiffs of a return of service indicating that the email and Facebook message had been sent.

Not only does U.S. law permit service of process via alternative means where it can be demonstrated to be a reasonable way to inform parties of a pending action and provide them with an opportunity to response, but The Hague Service Convention Article also permits service through alternative means provided that the destination state does not object to those means. Service by Facebook message and email does not violate any international agreement relating to service of which the UK is party. Therefore, on the evidence presented by the plaintiffs and no impediment to such a method of service by the UK, the court granted the service by email and Facebook message was deemed due and proper service.

The ruling followed a case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, FTC v. PCCare247 Inc., No. 12 Civ. 7189 (PAE) (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 7, 2013) where the court permitted service of documents on five India-based defendants. However similar requests to serve via Facebook and email have been denied, including in FTC v. Pecon Software Ltd., No. 1:12-cv-07186-PAE (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 7, 2013) where the same judge who permitted service in PCCare247 denied it.

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