Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Reasonable Person uses Google

The renowned Reasonable Person -- a legal standard for judging behavior -- now may have to use Google as part of his or her usual practice of doing things right.

A federal court in West Virginia has ruled that a search for someone that didn’t involve using Google fails to meet the constitutional standards of due process. The court also suggested that searching the official public records is no longer enough. In Plemons v. Gale, the judge wrote:

In the “time, place and circumstances” of this case, one who actually wanted to inform Ms. Plemons that her house was to be conveyed because of a failure to pay roughly $3,000 in taxes and fees would not have looked for her in the dusty corners of the Kanawha County record room. In the age of telephones, internet search engines, online newspapers, online people-finders, and readily available credit reports, most people can easily find someone. Thus, if a reasonable person were charged with the duty of locating Ms. Plemons in the relatively small city of Charleston, West Virginia, it is my belief that he would be likely to employ “Google” to find her name, call information to learn her telephone number, contact her landing bank, or call her ex-husband. Instead, Advantage searched the public records for Ms. Plemons’ address and mailed written notices to two of the addresses contained therein. When the notices were found to be undeliverable, Advantage did nothing further. I continue to believe that those efforts fasiled to meet the constitutional standards of due process. (Emphasis added.)
Earlier this summer, an Indiana court concluded that a plaintiff who hadn’t used Google failed to exercise due diligence in attempting to locate a defendant for service of process. See previous post here.

Interested in this kind of case? Check out Internetcases.com.

By the way, have you Googled yourself? In a recent SquawkBack Poll on the CNBC website, 69% of respondents said they had. Look at it here.

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