Process Service by E-Mail:

A Snyder v. Alternate Energy Inc., a New York City Civil Court decision from last month, allows this in certain circumstances, and canvasses past opinions on the subject. It then analyzes things this way:

[S]o long as Nelson's physical whereabouts remain a secret, reaching him and his company by ordinary means remains every bit as difficult as reaching the defendant in Hollow v. Hollow [an earlier New York state case -EV]. For the plaintiffs here, like the plaintiff in Hollow, the internet may very well offer the best hope they have of ever being able to reach the defendants Nelson and Corporate Energy.

The problem with the internet is that it is hard to be absolutely sure that the message is actually received by the person it is intended to reach. Despite the information plaintiffs' counsel has supplied tying defendant Nelson to e-mail address, there is still the chance, however slight, that the address belongs to someone who for some unknown reason is merely pretending to be Nelson. And even if the address is indeed Nelson's, then at any given time some other person say, a friend, family member or co-worker may be the one using the address and thus end up intercepting the message being sent to Nelson.

Concerns about the uncertainty of an e-mailed summons and complaint making its way across the internet to its intended target is reason to proceed with caution when being asked to authorize e-mail service. But such concerns are not reason enough to summarily reject an application for alternate service simply because the method sought involves e-mail. Strange as it may sound, the validity of a particular form of service is not necessarily dependent on the likelihood of receipt. As the court of Appeals wrote in Dobkin, "Our law has long been comfortable with many situations in which it is evident, as a practical matter, that parties to whom notice was ostensibly addressed would never in fact receive it." Dobkin v. Chapman, 21 NY2d at 502.