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Court Service by Instagram? Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT)?

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

The current rules in England and Wales surrounding service of documents are set out in rule 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

There are a number of methods of service, which are:

  • Personal service whereby you leave the document with the individual or company;
  • First class post, document exchange or other delivery service for the next business day;
  • Leaving the document at a place specified in the CPR;
  • Fax or other electronic means; or
  • Any method authorised by the Court

The High Court on 24 June 2022 granted permission for court proceedings to be served on ‘persons unknown’ via a non-fungible token on the blockchain. The case involved an Italian engineer who is trying to recover £2m of stolen crypto currency from an unidentified defendant. The court proceedings were to be served by airdropping them to the two wallets into which the cryptocurrency was deposited and by email. This is a first for the courts of England and Wales, and is only the second time a court has granted this permission, with the first being the New York Supreme Court.

The recent American case involved a claimant which is a regulated fintech company, focused on digital asset trading and compliant tokens, who were the subject of an $8million hack. The New York Supreme Court allowed the claimant’s legal representative to serve a temporary restraining order to a defendant acting under a false name via a non-fungible token (NFT), which is called a “service token”. The NFT could be publicly found on the Ethereum blockchain and links to a copy of the order were on the law firm’s website.

The High Court’s ruling shows that the courts of England and Wales are increasingly willing to authorise other means of service and adapt to new technologies. Another example of English Courts adapting is where they allowed service of documents through a social media platform. The defendant had not been responding to post or emails, so the claimant’s legal representatives applied for permission to give notice to the defendant of the Judgment obtained via Instagram, whilst still serving the document via post. The notice on Instagram was considered as alternative service. A link was provided which the defendant could follow to view the documents.

The CPR allow service via electronic means, other than fax, only if the defendant has confirmed in writing that they are willing to accept service that way or the Court has granted permission. Despite the defendant being able to agree to service by other electronic means, another recent 2022 English case held that a residential or business address for service must still be given to the Court and the other party to satisfy the rules.

Despite the English courts showing a willingness to diversify the rules on service and embrace new technology, the CPR is yet to be amended to reflect this. As experts we can assist you in situations where a defendant is not responding to you or provide advice on the various methods of service. Contact our Commercial Litigation team who will be able to assist you.

Rachel Leatherland

Posted:

Rachel Leatherland

Trainee Solicitor

Rachel is a trainee solicitor currently working within the Commerical Litigation team based in our Kettering office.