Instagram: Serving You Selfies And Court Documents
Social media has become a daily staple for many; it’s where news, photos and gossip are served on a virtual silver platter. However, a recent High Court case affirms and extends the principle that platforms such as Instagram may also be set to serve court documents.
Valid service of documents is an essential part of litigation. The CPR provides guidance as to what constitutes valid service of documents, which includes leaving the documents at a company’s registered office, personal service on an individual and first-class post.
However, even with this guidance, service is not always straightforward.
For example, a defendant might be evasive or unwilling to co-operate by refusing to accept service of the documents. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more challenging to deal with hard copy documents that are required for service by the traditional methods. Social distancing rules have made personal service difficult in general.
So, how do parties get around these hurdles?
Service Via Other Means Of Electronic Communication And/Or Methods Authorised By The Court
Under the CPR, it is possible to serve a document by fax or other means of electronic communication or any method authorised by the court.
Messages via social media could fall under “any other means of electronic communication”; however, such service would require prior agreement in writing from the other side and is subject to the limitations in the CPR. Alternatively, a claimant can apply to the court to confirm that service by an alternative method, such as social media, is allowed.
The restrictions on alternative methods of service are very important. Without prior agreement or a court order, service might not be valid which can have fatal consequences for your claim.
In the recent High Court case, a claimant had to serve documents on a defendant that had not responded to letters or emails sent to their last known addresses. However, it became apparent that their mobile phone number was still active, and that they had an active Instagram account; the defendant was uploading pictures on an almost weekly basis.
As such, the claimant successfully applied to the court for service via email and first-class post with a notice to be served via Instagram and text message.
One thing to note is that service via social media, or other messaging service, is challenging as it is difficult to reproduce documents in the form of legible images. To avoid this, the service via Instagram and text message was a notice that contained an easily accessible link to the full, legible documents.
Courts in other jurisdictions have allowed service via social media for some time and this case suggests that the Courts in England and Wales are, in appropriate cases, about to follow suit.
This development further demonstrates that the legal system is adapting their procedures to new technologies and social media platforms.
As such, if you are faced with an evasive defendant, you may wish to investigate whether they enjoy taking and uploading selfies and “snap” the chance to serve them via their frequented social media accounts.