14 Feb 2013

Newsletter from the International Transport, Trade & Energy Department, Finally - Recognition of the Electronic Age

Practice Area(s): Shipping & Logistics |

In court proceedings before the South African courts in exercise of their non-Admiralty jurisdiction, the practice rules are more rigid and in some respects archaic, than in Admiralty. In a recent reported decision of the High Court in Durban, exercising non-admiralty jurisdiction, the judge was persuaded to follow some procedures on electronic service of proceedings, apparently now followed by more progressive jurisdictions abroad. 

The KZN High Court's Judge Esther Steyn’s made the landmark ruling very recently allowing a court notice of set down of the pre-trial conference and trial itself, to be served on a Defendant (who was clearly avoiding service by traditional means) via Facebook. The Judge said the courts have to understand and take notice of changing social media platforms.

The Judge state that ‘Changes in communication technology have increased exponentially; therefore it is not unreasonable to expect the law to recognise such changes and accommodate it’.

It is likely that the judgment will be relied on as authority for service of Admiralty proceedings by publication of court notices and even summonses commencing action, on Facebook, as the Admiralty court has for many years been more informal on service procedures anyway.