Friday, August 28, 2015

THE BAR MITZVAH GIFT CASE



Many newspapers have been running the story of the 20 year old son who sued his mother for return of a Bar Mitzvah gift (it appears that the case may be related to a matrimonial between the parents).

In any event, here is a link to the decision:

http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2015/2015_25291.htm

Thursday, August 27, 2015

AND A SUPERSTORM SANDY SCAM



From Newsday:

"The state is investigating a company called NY Rising Consultants that earlier this month emailed superstorm Sandy victims offering to help with applications, change orders and appeal cases -- for fees ranging from $30 into the thousands."

See http://www.newsday.com/long-island/firm-probed-after-soliciting-sandy-applicants-for-ny-rising-aid-1.10778635

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NEXT SENIOR CLINIC AT NASSAU COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION


The next Senior Clinic is coming up on Wednesday, September 16 at 9:30-11am. This is a free clinic for senior citizens of Nassau County.

To register contact:

Demi Tsiopelas
Lawyer Services Coordinator
Nassau County Bar Association
15th & West Streets
Mineola, NY 11501
t. 516.747-4070 ext. 210

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

POSSIBLE MORTGAGE MODIFICATION SCAM

I have been advised as follows:

"Apparently a servicer called ClearSpring has offered a modification that would require the borrower to sign a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which the bank would then file in the event of one missed payment."

Of course, all scams should be reported to the NYS AG.

Friday, August 21, 2015

SERVICE BY FACEBOOK (CONTINUED)



In Baidoo v. Blood-Dzraku, 5 N.Y.S.3d 709 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 2015), the issue was centered around the commencement of a divorce action and the court discussed the Facebook concerns in detail (the following is taken from NYS Law Reporting Bureau):

"Having demonstrated a sound basis for seeking alternative service pursuant to CPLR 308 (5), plaintiff must now show that the method she proposes is one that the court can endorse as being reasonably calculated to apprise defendant that he is being sued for divorce. This hurdle poses a number of challenges. First, there are only a handful of reported decisions,{**48 Misc 3d at 313} mostly from federal district courts, that have addressed the issue of service of process being accomplished through social media, with there being an almost even split between those decisions approving it and those rejecting it (compare Federal Trade Commn. v PCCare247 Inc., 2013 WL 841037, 2013 US Dist LEXIS 31969 [SD NY, Mar. 7, 2013, No. 12 Civ 7189 (PAE)] [allowing service of process in part by social media], WhosHere, Inc. v Orun, 2014 WL 670817, 2014 US Dist LEXIS 22084 [ED Va, Feb. 20, 2014, No. 1:13-cv-00526 (AJT/TRJ)] [same], and Matter of Noel B. v Anna Maria A., NYLJ 1202670317766, 2014 NY Misc LEXIS 4708 [Fam Ct, Richmond County 2014] [same], with Fortunato v Chase Bank USA, N.A., 2012 WL 2086950, 2012 US Dist LEXIS 80594 [SD NY, June 7, 2012, No. 11 Civ 6608 (JFK)] [denying service by Facebook], Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v Shepard, 2013 WL 4058745, 2013 US Dist LEXIS 113578 [ED Mo, Aug. 12, 2013, No. 4:12cv1728 (SNLJ)] [same], and In re Adoption of K.P.M.A., 341 P3d 38 [Okla 2014] [same]). Second, as will be further discussed, the cases permitting such service have done so only on condition that the papers commencing the lawsuit be served on the defendant by another method as well. Thus, in seeking permission to effectuate service of the divorce summons by simply sending it to defendant through a private Facebook message, plaintiff is asking the court, already beyond the safe harbor of statutory prescription, to venture into uncharted waters without the guiding light of clear judicial precedent.

Consideration must also be given to the fact that the way plaintiff proposes to provide defendant with notice of the divorce represents a radical departure from the traditional notion of what constitutes service of process. Even decisions from as recently as 2012 and 2013 have referred to the use of Facebook messaging for the purpose of commencing a lawsuit as being a "novel concept" (PCCare247 Inc., 2013 WL 841037, *5, 2013 US Dist LEXIS 31969, *16 [permitting it as a supplemental method of service]) and "unorthodox to say the least" (Fortunato, 2012 WL 2086950, *2, 2012 US Dist LEXIS 80594, *6 [rejecting it as a means of service]).

That a concept is new to the law is something that may very well require a court to exercise a high degree of scrutiny and independent legal analysis when judicial approval is sought. But a concept should not be rejected simply because it is novel or nontraditional. This is especially so where technology and the law intersect. In this age of technological enlightenment,{**48 Misc 3d at 314} what is for the moment unorthodox and unusual stands a good chance of sooner or later being accepted and standard, or even outdated and passé. And because legislatures have often been slow to react to these changes, it has fallen on courts to insure that our legal procedures keep pace with current technology (see New England Merchants Natl. Bank v Iran Power Generation & Transmission Co., 495 F Supp 73, 81 [SD NY 1980] ["Courts . . . cannot be blind to changes and advances in technology"]). As noted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Rio Props., Inc. v Rio Intl. Interlink (284 F3d 1007, 1017 [9th Cir 2002]), one of the earliest cases authorizing service of process by email, the "broad constitutional principle" upon which judicially-devised alternative service is based "unshackles . . . courts from anachronistic methods of service and permits them entry into the technological renaissance."

In the final analysis, constitutional principles, not the lack of judicial precedent or the novelty of Facebook service, will be ultimately determinative here. The central question is whether the method by which plaintiff seeks to serve defendant comports with the fundamentals of due process by being reasonably calculated to provide defendant with notice of the divorce. Or more simply posed: If the summons for divorce is sent to what plaintiff represents to be defendant's Facebook account, is there a good chance he will receive it?

In order for the question to be answered in the affirmative, plaintiff must address a number of this court's concerns. The first is that the Facebook account that plaintiff believes is defendant's might not actually belong to him. As is well known, the Facebook profile somebody views online may very well belong to someone other than whom the profile purports it to be. This has led courts to observe that "anyone can make a Facebook profile using real, fake, or incomplete information, and thus, there is no way for the Court to confirm whether the Facebook page belongs to the defendant to be served" (PCCare247 Inc., 2013 WL 841037, *5, 2013 US Dist LEXIS 31969, *15 [internal quotation marks omitted], quoting Fortunato, 2012 WL 2086950, *2, 2012 US Dist LEXIS 80594, *7-8). As a result, this court required plaintiff to submit a supplemental affidavit to verify that the Facebook account she references is indeed that of the defendant. Plaintiff submitted such an affidavit, to which she annexed copies of the exchanges that took place between her and defendant when she contacted him through his{**48 Misc 3d at 315} Facebook page, and in which she identified defendant as the subject of the photographs that appear on that page. While it is true that plaintiff's statements are not absolute proof that the account belongs to defendant—it being conceivable that if plaintiff herself or someone at her behest created defendant's page, she could fabricate exchanges and post photographs—plaintiff has nevertheless persuaded the court that the account in question does indeed belong to defendant.

The second concern is that if defendant is not diligent in logging on to his Facebook account, he runs the risk of not seeing the summons until the time to respond has passed. Here too, plaintiff's affidavit has successfully addressed the issue. Her exchanges with defendant via Facebook show that he regularly logs on to his account. In addition, because plaintiff has a mobile phone number for defendant, both she and her attorney can speak to him or leave a voicemail message, or else send him a text message alerting him that a divorce action has been commenced and that he should check his account (WhosHere, Inc., 2014 WL 670817, *4, 2014 US Dist LEXIS 22084, *13 ["(C)ourts have taken into consideration whether defendant already possessed either knowledge of suit or that he may be the subject to a suit"]).

The third concern is whether a backup means of service is required under the circumstances. Although, as was discussed, other court decisions have endorsed using Facebook as a means of service, they have done so only where Facebook was but one of the methods employed, not the only method. As the court stated in PCCare247 Inc. (2013 WL 841037, *5, 2013 US Dist LEXIS 31969, *15), "[t]o be sure, if the [plaintiff] were proposing to serve defendants only by means of Facebook, as opposed to using Facebook as a supplemental means of service, a substantial question would arise whether that service comports with due process." In that case, and as well as in WhosHere, Inc., the other federal court decision authorizing Facebook service, the court stressed that it was allowing the use of a social media site only in conjunction with notice being sent to the defendants by email. In Noel B. (NYLJ 1202670317766, *2, 2014 NY Misc LEXIS 4708, *4), the only decision from a state court permitting service via Facebook, the petitioner was required to mail a copy of the child support summons and petition to the respondent's "previously used last known address."

Here, plaintiff does not have an email address for defendant and has no way of finding one. Nor does she have a street address{**48 Misc 3d at 316} for defendant that could constitute a viable "last known address"; defendant's last known address dates back at least four years and the post office confirmed that defendant no longer resides there and he has left no forwarding address. Thus, plaintiff has a compelling reason to make Facebook the sole, rather than the supplemental, means of service, with the court satisfied that it is a method reasonably calculated to give defendant notice that he is being sued for divorce.

Before granting plaintiff leave to serve defendant via Facebook, a method of alternative service judicially-devised pursuant to CPLR 308 (5), there is one remaining question that should be addressed: Why use Facebook as either the sole or the supplemental means of service in the first place when there is a statutorily prescribed method of service readily available? That method is service by publication, something that is specifically authorized under CPLR 315. After all, publication is not only expressly sanctioned by the CPLR, but it is a means of service of process that has been used in New York in one form or another since colonial times. Even today, it is probably the method of service most often permitted in divorce actions when the defendant cannot be served by other means.

The problem, however, with publication service is that it is almost guaranteed not to provide a defendant with notice of the action for divorce, or any other lawsuit for that matter (see Snyder v Alternate Energy Inc., 19 Misc 3d 954 [Civ Ct, NY County 2008]; Adam Liptak, How to Tell Someone She's Being Sued, Without Really Telling Her, NY Times, Nov. 19, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/19/us/19bar.html). In divorce cases brought in New York County, plaintiffs are often granted permission to publish the summons in such newspapers as the New York Law Journal or the Irish Echo. If that were to be done here, the chances of defendant, who is neither a lawyer nor Irish, ever seeing the summons in print, either in those particular newspapers or in any other, are slim to none. The dangers of allowing somebody to be divorced and not know it are simply too great to allow notice to be given by publication, a form of service that, while neither novel nor unorthodox, is essentially statutorily authorized non-service. This is especially so when, as here, there is a readily available means of service that stands a very good chance of letting defendant know that he is being sued.

Moreover, the court will not require publication in any newspaper even as a backup method to Facebook. Although a{**48 Misc 3d at 317} more widely circulated newspaper, like the New York Post or the Daily News, might reach more readers, the cost, which approaches $1,000 for running the notice for a week, is substantial, and the chances of it being seen by defendant, buried in an obscure section of the paper and printed in small type, are still infinitesimal.

Under the circumstance presented here, service by Facebook, albeit novel and nontraditional, is the form of service that most comports with the constitutional standards of due process. Not only is it reasonably calculated to provide defendant with notice that he is being sued for divorce, but every indication is that it will achieve what should be the goal of every method of service: actually delivering the summons to him.

In light of the foregoing, plaintiff is granted permission to serve defendant with the divorce summons using a private message through Facebook. Specifically, because litigants are prohibited from serving other litigants, plaintiff's attorney shall log into plaintiff's Facebook account and message the defendant by first identifying himself, and then either including a web address of the summons or attaching an image of the summons. This transmittal shall be repeated by plaintiff's attorney to defendant once a week for three consecutive weeks or until acknowledged by the defendant. Additionally, after the initial transmittal, plaintiff and her attorney are to call and text message defendant to inform him that the summons for divorce has been sent to him via Facebook.

Footnotes

Footnote 1:The last time the legislature amended a provision of the law dealing with service of process on individuals was in 1994, back at the dawn of the Internet age and before email was widely utilized.

Footnote 2:The "many" includes the 157,000,000 people in the United States who, according to Facebook's 2014 fourth quarter shareholder report, check their Facebook accounts each day. It does not, by and large, include the members of the New York State Judiciary, who have been advised that they should be wary of using social network sites (see Advisory Comm on Jud Ethics Op 08-176 [2009]; Advisory Comm on Jud Ethics Op 13-39 [2013]; see also Richard Raysman & Peter Brown, Judicial and Attorney Misuse of Social Media Can End Careers, NYLJ, Mar. 10, 2015 at 5, col 1). "

Thursday, August 20, 2015

SERVICE BY FACEBOOK



Two recent cases come to mind:

1. Noel B. v. Anna Maria A., Docket No. F-00787-13/14B (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Sept. 12, 2014).

2. Baidoo v. Blood-Dzraku, 5 N.Y.S.3d 709 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 2015).

Both cases deal with the issue of substituted service under CPLR 308 (5). 

In Noel B, the Petitioner filed an action seeking to modify the order of child support based on the alleged emancipation of the sole subject child. The court noted:

"The court finds that service under CPLR § 308 (1,2 and 4) are impracticable. The Petitioner has made diligent efforts to locate the Respondent, but has been unable to obtain an address where service can be made.

However, despite the absence of a physical address, the Petitioner does have a means by which he can contact the Respondent and provide her with notice of the instant proceedings, namely the existence of an active social media account.

While this court is not aware of any published decision wherein a New York state court has authorized service of process by means of social media, other jurisdictions have allowed such service. See Whoshere, Inc. v. Orun, 2014 WL 670817 (E.D. Va.), Federal Trade Commission v. PCCare247 Inc., 2013 WL 841037 (S.D.N.Y.). The court notes that in both those matters service via Facebook was directed to be made in connection with other means of service.
Pursuant to CPLR § 308(5) the court authorizes substituted service by the following method: the Petitioner is to send a digital copy of the summons and petition to the Respondent via the Facebook account, and follow up with a mailing of those same documents to the previously used last known address. The Respondent can receive communications via social media, whereas her actual physical whereabouts are uncertain. The method detailed here by the court provides the best chance of the Respondent getting actual notice of these proceedings."