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Toronto lawyer serves claim with Instagram

|Written By Alex Robinson
Toronto lawyer serves claim with Instagram
Tara Vasdani served a statement of claim using Instagram.

When Toronto lawyer Tara Vasdani could not track down a defendant she was looking to serve, she turned to Instagram.

Vasdani recently obtained an order in Ontario Superior Court to serve a statement of claim using the social media app, which allows users to share photos and videos.

She says the order is likely the first of its kind in the province, and by allowing the service of a claim through Instagram, it signals a shift in how lawyers interact with technology.

“[I]n order to avoid becoming obsolete, it is our duty to evolve with society — and one of the concrete and surefire ways society is evolving is through technology,” she says.

Vasdani, who is an associate at Mason Caplan Roti LLP, issued the claim, in which she represents an insurance company, at the end of August.

She first attempted to serve the defendant on Sept. 1, 2017, using a physical address, and her process servers were told the defendant had moved away. She then tried using email, with a read receipt, but her messages were either ignored or never read.

Vasdani then looked up the defendant on LinkedIn and contacted her last listed employer, who told her the person never worked there.

When Vasdani could not find the defendant on other social media sites, she turned to Instagram, which the lawyer says she uses much more than Facebook or other apps.

Having found the defendant on Instagram, Vasdani brought a motion in court asking if she could serve the defendant through Instagram and LinkedIn.

The court granted service effective five days after Vasdani sent the necessary documents to the defendant through Instagram and LinkedIn, as well as through mail to her last known address.

Vasdani served the defendant in a private message on Instagram. The court did not require a read receipt be obtained for the service to be effective.

The lawyer says the order is the latest example of how the use of technology is creeping into the legal profession, which has been criticized for being largely resistant to change.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has committed to digitizing and modernizing the courts.

The Ministry of the Attorney General recently made it possible to file civil claims online — a change Vasdani says would have been inconceivable to many lawyers a year ago.

“If we are able to shift the way that we use and apply the law and legal tools so that they are more consistent with the individuals we are seeking to hold legally accountable, we will be met with efficacy, client satisfaction and the prestige the profession since its inception has and deserves to continue to hold,” she says.

Editor's Note: Line added Feb. 6, 2018 to reflect that the court did not require a read receipt be obtained for the service to be effective.

  • Kudos

    Caitlin M
    Kudos to Vasdani for the persistence and determination in finding the woman she needed to serve. Most young people are often on social media sites, which now allows the sender to see when the other has read or opened their message, making its harder for them to ignore it.
  • A Pyrrhic Victory?

    Jeff Burtt - Barrister
    Kudos to Ms. Vasdani for her creativity and perseverance. Sadly, I suspect that what now awaits is a noting in default and difficulty enforcing any judgment her client incurs the cost of obtaining. But I wish Tara luck. I would suggest she scrutinize the Instagram posts for any evidence of a lavish lifestyle or profligate spending.
  • But Was This Effective?

    Michael Simpson
    But was this effective? In such a case, the whole purpose remains to be that the person is made to know of the claim against them. The end of this story, which is not provided, is whether or not this was an effective method of service. I very much get the difficulties sometimes in serving people, including missed dates and times to meet, periods of no response in communication, no communication at all, etc. There certainly was a lack of correct information provided by this person, including on social media, apparently. If perhaps, the party had an injury or illness or was not on social media at this time, then it would not be an effective means. Assuming the comments are read, could the author please advise whether this ended with definite notice? Thank you.

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