Facebook isn’t the place to serve legal papers, says judge

(Credit: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Facebook is the normal way to communicate with people. It may not yet be a fine place to slap legal papers upon an adversary, however.

In an intriguing case involving a mother, a daughter, and a bank, a federal judge decided that it’s not yet time for Facebook to become a fine substitute for chasing someone down a street in order to serve them with papers.

Paid Content reports the contents of his ruling as being highly nuanced.

The case involves the pursuit of an alleged identity thief by Chase Bank. Chase is accusing Nicole Fortunato of using her mother’s identity to apply for a credit card and then spending the sum of $1,243 on it.

Chase first went after her mother, garnishing her paychecks. However, Lorri Fortunato tried to explain that she wasn’t exactly in touch with her daughter. She seems to have found that it was more effective to explain that to Chase through a lawsuit.

Chase couldn’t find a good address for Nicole. So someone at the bank experienced a modern “Aha” and thought they could find the daughter on Facebook.

Having petitioned the court, the bank seems to have been bounced.

Indeed, U.S. District Judge John Keenan offered that he found service on Facebook to be “unorthodox.” Actually, many people find it entirely non-existent. But I think he meant serving papers via the social network.

The judge didn’t feel there was precedent, at least in the U.S. Earlier this year, a U.K. judge declared himself quite happy for Facebook to be the medium of legally bad news.

In this case, though, there was some doubt as to whether the profile that Chase had found was the right one.

More Technically Incorrect

And, as the judge wisely indicated: “The court’s understanding is that anyone can make a Facebook profile using real, fake or incomplete information.”

The court understands that well. Some unsuspecting 12-year-old could have suddenly got served with very nasty legal threats and gone crying to mummy — who would have, quite naturally, sued.

Some newspaper proprietors might temporarily put down their third gin on hearing the judge’s solution: local newspapers. He suggested that some ads in the Hastings, N.Y., local press might be entirely appropriate. This might be a huge business opportunity for local papers.

One of the papers that seems to serve the area is the Syracuse Post-Standard. However, searching it I can find no trace of the tale of Chase Bank and Nicole Fortunato.

One day soon, Facebook will become the place where everyone sees everyone’s business, knows it, and even transacts it.

Perhaps the judge has offered a pleasing respite to all those who merely go to Facebook in order to discover how no one they care about is faring.

Chase Bank Facebook Service

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