By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright a Freehold Township, Monmouth County New Jersey Trial and Litigation Attorney
Look how Facebook is now being used… in trial litigation. Let’s look at a recent case.
The Plaintiffs instituted a lawsuit to enjoin a defendant from holding himself out as the father of their son, Z.A. , to enjoin the defendant from contacting the adoptive plaintiffs and Z.A., and to compel defendant to remove information pertaining to Z.A. allegedly published online. Plaintiffs are Z.A.’s adoptive parents. Z.A.’s biological father of record is J.P.
Plaintiffs charged that the defendant is a “complete stranger” to them, and they have not had any contact with him prior to the events that gave rise to this litigation. Plaintiffs alleged that defendant initiated contact with their family by locating Z.A.’s Facebook profile and sending him a friend request, which Z.A denied. Plaintiffs further allege that defendant then contacted Z.A. through Instagram, another social media platform. In the social media posts, defendant communicated to Z.A. that Z.A. had been adopted and identified himself as Z.A.’s biological father. Plaintiffs further allege that the defendant informed Z.A. that he knew the location of Z.A.’s birth and disclosed both the identity of Z.A.’s birth mother and that Z.A. has biological siblings at large. Plaintiffs also alleged that defendant incorporated a picture of Z.A. into an image comprised of three separate photographs, each featuring a different person, and allege that defendant held out the picture as an image of his children. Plaintiffs believe that defendant obtained the picture of Z.A. from K.A.’s Facebook profile. Plaintiffs’ attorney certified that he mailed cease and desist notices to defendant’s two last known addresses, both of which are in Pennsylvania, by certified and regular mail. Plaintiffs’ attorney reports that the certified mailings were returned as unclaimed, but the regular mail had not been returned. One envelope bears the word, “RETURN TO SENDER/ATTEMPTED – NOT KNOWN/UNABLE TO FORWARD,” and the other reads, “RETURN TO SENDER/NOTDELIVERABLE AS ADDRESSED/UNABLE TO FORWARD.” In light of their difficulty in reaching defendant by mail, Plaintiffs asked to effectuate service of the lawsuit upon the defendant via Facebook.
In Part 2 of this blog post, we will discuss the court’s decision in this case.
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