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Judge explains Facebook summons

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IOL pic Judge Esther Steyn.jpg0

ING

Judge Esther Steyn

The Durban High Court judge who made a landmark ruling last week allowing a court summons to be served via Facebook, says the courts have to understand social media platforms.

Judge Esther Steyn’s ruling has been hailed as progressive and “in keeping with the times”.

It pertains to a matter where Cecil Schickerling of CMC Woodworking Machine (Pty) Ltd is suing Pieter Odendaal for R126 700 over the sale of a woodworking machine.

“Changes in communication technology have increased exponentially; therefore it is not unreasonable to expect the law to recognise such changes and accommodate it,” said Steyn in a written explanation.

“The present application, in my view, would not have been possible had it not been for a recent amendment to the uniform rules of a court which provides for service by way of electronic mail, registered post and fax,” said the judge.

Steyn said that before granting the application to use Facebook as a medium to serve a legal notice

she studied the workings of Facebook and surmised that it could be used as an effective tracing tool and it could relay information to individuals concerned.

Steyn was also satisfied that there could be no claims of mistaken identity as the photos lodged in the defendant’s photo album are clear and he’s identifiable, and his privacy has not been compromised having studied how messages are sent.

Apparently, after preliminary legal processes in the Schickerling versus Odendaal matter started during 2006, it was set down as awaiting trial in May 2008. But in April 2010 the defendant’s attorney’s served notice of their withdrawal from the matter.

Since then, every attempt by the sheriff of the court and tracing agents to serve the notice on Odendaal proved futile. As a last resort, Schickerling’s attorney, Ian King, tracked Odendaal on Facebook and posted the notice

The Law Society of SA gave Steyn’s ruling the thumbs-up. The society’s co-chairman Krish Govender said: “The judgment by Steyn must be seen as progressive and in keeping with the times we live in, particularly if it promotes access to justice.”

If Odendaal checks his Facebook messages he will learn that the trial date has been set down for August 29 and a pre-trial conference will be held on August 14.

And, as a precautionary measure Schickerling’s legal team will also publicise the notices in the August 13 edition of The Mercury. - INL


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