South African legal history was made in the Durban High Court yesterday when Judge Esther Steyn agreed to allow the service of a legal notice on a man being sued to be posted on his Facebook page.
The serving of legal notices via social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter has occurred in other parts of the world like Australia and Canada, but the case in which Pieter Odendaal Kitchens is being sued for R126 000 by Cecil Schickerling of CMC Woodworking Machine (Pty) Ltd, appears to be the first of its kind in South Africa.
The Mercury reported this morning:
SA law allows for substituted service of a warrant or writ by telegram and, more recently, the rules of court were amended to provide for service by e-mail, registered post and fax.
Cecil Schickerling of CMC Woodworking Machine (Pty) Ltd is suing Pieter Odendaal Kitchens for R126 000, the purchase price of a woodworking machine called an edge bander.
In his affidavit before the court, Schickerling says Odendaal is defending the action, pleadings have been exchanged, and it has been set down for trial this month.
However, Odendaal’s attorneys withdrew before the allocation of the trial date, and since then neither the sheriff nor three tracing agents have been able to find him.
In the meantime, Schickerling said it seemed the edge bander had been sold to someone else who was also unable to provide details about Odendaal’s whereabouts.
Enter Facebook: Ian King, Schickerling did a search on Facebook and found Odendaal, and knowing that if Odendaal could not be found, the trial date would be lost.
I know him by sight and I recognise him from pictures of him on the site. According to information contained in his profile, he lives in Ramsgate, which is consistent with all the information I know of him.
Service by Facebook by way of a message sent to his inbox is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of e-mail, and in the present circumstances it is the most likely way that a communication of the trial date and pre-trial procedures will come to his attention.
Odendaal was clearly trying to evade service, according to Schickerling.
The Mercury continued:
In heads of argument submitted to the court, advocate Mark Harcourt said that, while there had been vast changes in technology, courts were generally slow in adapting, and reported cases on the issue were hard to find. However, legal articles seemed to indicate that courts overseas were increasingly willing to accept service through Facebook and other social networking platforms.
In a case in the US, it was noted that this would probably be more effective than publication in a local newspaper. In the UK, the high court allowed an injunction against an anonymous blogger to be served on Twitter.
With her decision, the judge also ordered that the notice be advertised in The Mercury newspaper by August 13, and that she’d give her reasons for her landmark decision this Friday.
[Source: The Mercury via IOL]
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