A federal judge in the Southern District of New York has denied a request by Chase bank to serve process through a Facebook account. Initially, Chase hired a private investigator who tried in vain to track down Nicole Fortunato’s whereabouts in order to bring her in to a lawsuit as a third-party defendant. When Chase was unable to locate Ms. Fortunato, Chase filed the application to serve her through three different means—(1) by mailing the complaint to the defendant’s mother, (2) via her Facebook account (and the email address listed on the Facebook account), and (3) by publication in local newspapers. The complaint alleges that Ms. Fortunato was involved credit card fraud by appropriating her mother’s identity to rack up $1,243.09 in debt. The case originated with a suit by Ms. Fortunato’s estranged mother when Chase had garnished her paycheck on account of the same debt.
Judge John F. Keenan’s June 7th order denied Chase’s request for service by mail to the defendant’s mother because of their estranged relationship and the fact that they are counterparties in the lawsuit. On the request for Facebook service, the court noted that “anyone can make a Facebook profile using real, fake or incomplete information and thus there is no way for the court to confirm that the Nicole Fortunato the investigator found is in fact the third-party defendant to be served.” The court found that, unlike the cases where service by email had been approved, here there was no facts asserted that would give the court any certainty that the Facebook profile was operational and accessed by Ms. Fortunato. The court added that “[s]ervice by Facebook is unorthodox to say the least, and this Court is unaware of any other court that has authorized such service.” Interestingly enough, however, the court instead determined that the more traditional alternative approach—service by publication in local newspapers—was the most likely means to apprise her of the suit against her.