Service of Proceedings Via Social Media

Service of Proceedings Via Social Media

In today’s technological age of social media, the opportunities for validly serving legal proceedings are wider, and the courts are increasingly willing to allow service via Facebook and the like.  At top Bahamas law firm ParrisWhittaker, the experienced commercial lawyers advise businesses on all matters relating to commercial law and civil litigation.

What does the law say?

The legal system in The Bahamas is based on English common law, supplemented by local laws.  This means that rulings from the UK courts have direct impact on the courts in The Bahamas.  Under the Supreme Court Act of The Bahamas, a writ (or similar) must be served in person on each defendant either by the plaintiff or their agent or, for instance, by post. 

In the case of foreign proceedings between parties within the Bahamas and outside of the Bahamian jurisdiction, service of proceedings must generally be initiated by a Notice of Request from the requesting authority under the Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act, Ch. 66 (E(POJ)A. Service of process is then ‘effected’ by providing a copy of the relevant documents and any appropriate translation with the individual or organisation to be served. The Attorney-General normally does this via the process server or an appropriate service agency.

But what if the statutory process cannot be effected, for instance, the individual cannot be located?

Can social media be used?

The clear trend is that the courts are allowing social media to be used for the service of proceedings where it is necessary.  For example:

  • In 2014, a County Court in the UK ruled that Facebook could be used to effect notification of bankruptcy proceedings where the debtor had proved elusive.  The Judge was satisfied on the evidence that the debtor was a regular user of his Facebook account
  • In 2012, the High Court allowed Facebook to be used in a commercial case where there were difficulties locating one of the parties to proceedings
  • In 2011, Hastings County Court in the UK granted permission for a Court Order to be served on the defendant via Facebook
  • In a relatively big case in 2011, the parties in a dispute were involved a £1.3m claim for overpayments of commission.   The High Court gave permission for proceedings to be served by electronic means by attaching them in pdf format to a message sent via Facebook to an individual defendant1 and
  • In 2009, the High Court allowed a claimant to serve an injunction against an anonymous Twitter user by sending a direct message containing the link to the injunction

What does this mean?

The courts are clearly open to the potential for social media to be used as a valid and sometimes necessary form of service of proceedings – particularly where service on a foreign individual or business is required because, for instance, a party is elusive and traditional forms of service have proved difficult or impossible. However, this has not yet been tested in the Bahamian Court system. 

Where alternative forms of service need to be considered, the relevant parties’ use of social media could be investigated as a valid means of service.  A court order will most likely be required in order to do so, but it provides an alternative in cases where it may be necessary.

How can we help?

For expert, strategic legal advice on all your commercial disputes, call the experienced commercial lawyers at ParrisWhittaker.  We can help you with clear, effective legal advice and representation to fully protect your interests. 

1 Ako Capital LLP & Ako Master Fund Limited v TFS Derivatives Limited,