Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Morris
K.A. and K.I.A., Plaintiffs,
W. Miskowski for plaintiffs.
defendant pro se.
STEPHAN C. HANSBURY, P.J., Ch. 
instituted this action to enjoin defendant from holding
himself out as the father of their son, Z.A., to enjoin
defendant from contacting plaintiffs and Z.A., and to compel
defendant to remove information pertaining to Z.A. that he
has allegedly published online. Plaintiffs are Z.A.'s
adoptive parents. Z.A.'s biological father of record is
indicate that defendant is a "complete stranger" to
them, and they have not had any contact with him prior to the
events that gave rise to this litigation. Plaintiffs allege
that defendant initiated contact with their family by
locating K.A.'s Facebook profile and sending him a friend
request, which K.A. denied. Plaintiffs allege that defendant
then contacted Z.A. through Instagram, another social media
platform. Plaintiffs represent that defendant communicated to
Z.A. that Z.A. had been adopted and identified himself as
Z.A.'s biological father. Plaintiffs further allege that
defendant informed Z.A. that he knew the location of
Z.A.'s birth and disclosed both the identity of
Z.A.'s birth mother and that Z.A. has biological siblings
state that defendant incorporated a picture of Z.A. into an
image comprised of three separate photographs, each featuring
a different person, and allege that defendant holds out the
picture as an image of his children. Plaintiffs further
allege that defendant published the conglomerate image on his
Facebook page, where it is presently available to the public.
Plaintiffs posit that defendant obtained the picture of Z.A.
from K.A.'s Facebook profile. Plaintiffs also allege that
defendant had sent a Facebook friend request to K.A.'s
sister, which she, too, denied.
attorney, James Miskowski, certifies that he mailed cease and
desist notices to defendant's two last known addresses,
both of which are in Pennsylvania, by certified and regular
mail. Miskowski reports that the certified mailings were
returned as unclaimed, but the regular mail, which was posted
on November 4, 2015, had not been returned as of November 30,
2015. Plaintiffs have submitted partial copies of the
certified mail envelopes. One envelope bears the words,
"RETURN TO SENDER/ATTEMPTED - NOT KNOWN/UNABLE TO
FORWARD, " and the other reads, "RETURN TO
SENDER/NOT DELIVERABLE AS ADDRESSED/UNABLE TO FORWARD."
In light of their difficulty in reaching defendant by mail,
plaintiffs now seek leave to effectuate substituted service
of process via Facebook.
issue presented here is whether this court is able to assert
personal jurisdiction over defendant by virtue of the service
of the order to show cause and complaint by Facebook. As a
preliminary matter, the addresses that plaintiffs allege are
defendant's are out of state. A court cannot assert
jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant unless such
defendant has engaged in contact with the forum state.
Waste Mgmt. v. Admiral Ins. Co., 138 N.J. 106
(1994). An out-of-state activity constitutes a contact with
the state for the purposes of personal jurisdiction where the
actor knew that its effects would be manifested in the forum
state. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444
U.S. 286, 311, 100 S.Ct. 559, 568, 62 L.Ed.2d 490, 510
(1980). This "effects test" has been used to
support findings of jurisdiction over defendants whose
out-of-state conduct reached into the forum state and
targeted an instate resident, thus making the forum state the
focal point of the harm. See, e.g., Calder v. Jones,
465 U.S. 783, 789, 104 S.Ct. 1482, 1487, 79 L.Ed.2d 804, 812
(1984); Toys "R" Us, Inc. v. Step Two,
S.A., 318 F.3d 446 (3d Cir. 2003). The court in Toys
"R" Us expressly noted that a defendant's
intentional interaction with the forum state via the internet
is sufficient to confer personal jurisdiction. Id.
at 452. Here, the holder of the social media accounts
knowingly reached out to various members of plaintiffs'
family, who are New Jersey residents. As it was clear that
any resultant harm would be concentrated in this state, such
conduct confers personal jurisdiction on this court over the
scope of personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant
is contingent on the degree of that defendant's contact
with the forum state. Waste Mgmt., supra, 138 N.J. at 106.
For example, where a defendant has engaged in
"continuous and systematic activities" in another
state, the courts of that state may exercise general
jurisdiction over that defendant. Id. at 119.
Conversely, where the defendant's activities do not rise
to the level of "continuous and systematic, " the
courts are only able to exercise specific jurisdiction over
the defendant- in other words, jurisdiction limited to causes
of action arising directly out of the defendant's
contacts with the state. Ibid. Here, the only contacts with
New Jersey alleged of defendant are a handful of activities
carried out through social media that target New Jersey
residents, plaintiffs' son. Though these activities are
not continuous and systematic such that they support a
finding of general jurisdiction, they are sufficient to
justify specific jurisdiction over related causes of action.
As these activities are the subject of plaintiffs'
complaint, this court can properly exercise jurisdiction over
the account holder for the purpose of addressing
personal jurisdiction has one additional requirement that
must be satisfied before it is complete-service of process
must be effectuated on the defendant. As a preliminary
matter, a plaintiff must serve the complaint and summons on
the defendant personally. R. 4:4-4(a). If, however, a
plaintiff's reasonable, good-faith attempt to effectuate
personal service proves unsuccessful, the plaintiff may then
attempt to effectuate service using the secondary methods
prescribed in the court rules. R. 4:4-3(b). The Rules also
provide that, as a tertiary and last resort, "If service
cannot be made by any of the modes provided by this rule, any
defendant may be served as provided by court order,
consistent with due process of law." R. 4:4-4(b)(3).
of process via Facebook can, in certain circumstances,
satisfy the test set forth in O'Connor v. Altus,
67 N.J. 106 (1975). Cf. Mindy P. Fox, In Defense of Service
of Process via Facebook, New Jersey Law Journal, January 17,
2013 (arguing that service via Facebook is consistent with
due process in certain cases). Given that the Facebook and
Instagram accounts at issue are the sole conduits of the
purported harm, service via Facebook is reasonably calculated
to apprise the account holder of the pendency of this action
and afford him or her an opportunity to defend against
plaintiffs' claims. The account holder's recent
activity on Facebook indicates that the account is active and
that receipt of the documents is probable. Additionally,
Facebook includes a feature that allows the sender of a
message to see whether the recipient has opened the same,
thus indicating that the recipient is on notice of the
the court is satisfied that the only method of service
available to plaintiffs is Facebook. The only address that
plaintiffs could locate was not a good address. ...