August 2012

Kwazulu-Natal Judge Esther Steyn made legal history in South Africa when she allowed a legal notice (Facebook Summons) to be served on a Ramsgate resident via his Facebook page. Judge Steyn ruled that the individual from Ramsgate could be served with a legal notice via his Facebook page.

Pleadings have been exchanged and the matter is set for trial in August but no-one has been able to make contact with the individual who is being sued for R126 000 for the purchase of a woodworking machine. The summons is to be placed on his Facebook and also advertised in the Mercury on August 13. This decision has been reported to be a first in South Africa.

Judge Esther Steyn stated that it was not unreasonable for the law to recognize changes in communication technology and to accommodate them. She added that she was satisfied there could be no claims of mistaken identity as the photographs in the defendant’s photo album were clear. Judge Esther Steyn summarized that Facebook could be used as an effective tracing tool and that it could relay information to the individuals concerned. Judge Esther Steyn’s ruling has been hailed as progressive.

Court rules for the High Courts that have changed since 27 July 2012, such as an extension of Chapter 3 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT Act) to service of court documents on litigants by email or fax, includes the legal recognition of data messages.