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A defendant has been served with a default judgement via social media platform Instagram after he failed to reply to letters and emails.  The move is believed to be the first time Instagram has been used for the service of documents in the English courts.

It is not uncommon for evasive defendants to refuse to accept documents by providing false addresses or deleting their email accounts – making it hard for claimants to press their claims.  When faced with this familiar problem, global law firm Clyde & Co turned to Instagram.

The defendant never replied to any letters and emails sent to his known home and email addresses,” said the firm.  “However, it became apparent that the defendant actively used an Instagram account, uploading pictures almost weekly. In addition, his mobile phone number was still active.”

Clyde & Co needed the High Court’s permission to follow its innovative approach.  Under court rules, service of documents is permitted by personal service, post, by leaving it in a designated place or by fax or other means of electronic communication. Defendants usually have to agree that they are willing to accept service by electronic means unless the claimant obtains a court order.

Clyde  & Co successfully applied to the High Court for service via email and first class post, and notice via Instagram and text message.  It then sent an Instagram message to the defendant with a link to the court documents.

This development is a further indication that the English courts are willing to take a modern approach to service,” said the firm.  “Service via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and alike seems to be a more and more appropriate method of bringing proceedings to the attention of an evasive defendant,” it added.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions observed that the court’s decision emphasised the viability of newer forms of communication and that firms should take care regarding notice provisions. “Currently, unless a court order is obtained, the use of alternative means of electronic communication has to be accepted by the recipient in order to be valid, but as such practitioners should take care what is being said in the notice provisions of their contracts.”

Clyde & Co has published an article about its innovative approach to service on its website.  The article has also been reproduced on the Law Society website.

Brunel provides professional indemnity insurance broking services to professional firms.  Visit our website to find out more or call Jonathan Filer on +44 (0)117 325 0752.