Today’s technology offers a creative lawyer new ways to track down a civil defendant who’s evading service of process. Service by email and even by social media have been given the OK by a number of courts across the nation. Now, a D.C. judge has provided one more e-friendly way to serve a slippery defendant – text message.
Last month, a Washington man sought a temporary protective order against a woman he claimed was stalking him. After multiple attempts to serve the respondent at her home and workplace were unsuccessful, D.C. Superior Court Judge Laura Cordero ruled that the woman could be served via text message and email.
According to ServeNow, an online network for process servers, the couple met on match.com, but the man broke it off after a few dates. The woman, who lives in Arlington, allegedly sent hundreds of unsolicited text messages and emails, sexually explicit photos and false claims of pregnancy. The man’s voicemail filled up daily, ServeNow reported. When he blocked her number, she allegedly used an app that placed calls from different numbers.
Deciding enough was enough, the petitioner filed a civil protective order and sought to have the respondent served for a hearing.
But ironically, the woman who wouldn’t seem to go away was suddenly nowhere to be found.
The process server knocked on the respondent’s door five different times over a 10-day span. No answer.
The process server visited the Air Force base where the woman was employed. He was told to leave by a police officer.
He waited in front of her apartment for two hours in hopes to catch her leaving for work, but she never emerged.
He later recruited local police and sheriff’s departments to help in his efforts, but again, to no avail.
Seemingly out of options, the petitioner took the matter back to court on July 28.
Judge Cordero turned to DV Rule 3(b)(3) of the DC code, which states that, if a petitioner has been unable to accomplish personal service, the court may grant the petitioner to serve by “such other manner as the Court, in its discretion, deems just and reasonable.”
As to figuring out whether email and text were reasonable means to contact the woman? Well, the petitioner had plenty of evidence to support the respondent’s proficiency in email and text message communications.
Cordero found that the process server had made a diligent effort to serve the respondent and issued an order for service by email and text message.
It’s not the first time a judge in the DC metro area has approved service of process by electronic means.
Last year, a plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit went before a federal magistrate judge in Alexandria seeking permission to use alternate contact points for the defendant after service in a foreign country failed (WhosHere Inc. v. Orun, VLW ). The judge permitted service via Facebook, LinkedIn and email.
So that leaves only Twitter. Think service of process is available in 140 characters or less?