The Irish High Court recently approved as an acceptable form of ‘substituted service’ the service of a summons by Facebook. This appears to be the first time an Irish court has permitted service by social media.

‘Substituted service’ is an exception to the general requirement that personal service of pleadings be effected. The Court may make an order for ‘substituted service’ where a plaintiff can show that they were unable to effect personal service on a party to proceedings.

Though prior to this decision, the potential forms of substituted service were not exhaustive, registered post was by far the most common method, while the Court rules also envisaged service by notice or advertisement. The non-exhaustive nature of these rules has given the Court the flexibility to develop them in line with the ever growing phenomenon of social media.

Upon a recent application for substituted service, which was reported on 4 June 2012, Mr Justice Peart permitted the service of a court summons by way of social media. Specifically, service was permitted via private email on the social networking site Facebook.

In making the ruling, Mr Justice Peart was satisfied that the defendant was an active Facebook user and that use of the conventional serving methods would prove ineffective as the home address, telephone number and email address of the defendant, who was living outside Ireland, were all unknown.

Despite the existence of similar case law in other jurisdictions including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, this is the first case of this nature within Ireland and is an area which will undoubtedly be developed further in the future.