Court Authorizes Service by Blockchain

On August 25, 2022, Justice Masley of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in LCX AG v. 1.274M U.S. Dollar Coin, 2022 NY Slip Op 32834(U), authorizing service through a blockchain, explaining:

CPLR 308(5) permits alternative service of process in such manner as the court, upon motion without notice, directs, if service is impracticable. The impracticability standard is not capable of easy definition. However, it does not require proof of actual prior attempts to serve a party under the methods outlined pursuant to subdivisions (1), (2), or (4) of CPLR 308. Likewise, and contrary to defendant’s objection, plaintiff need not know defendant’s physical location. Indeed, recent alternate service methods using social platforms and technology are designed for such service where defendants’ identify is known, but their location is a mystery, as is the case here.

Rather, due process requires that the method of service be reasonably calculated, under all the of the circumstances, to apprise the defendant of the action. The court has broad discretion to fashion the means of the alternate service adapted to the particular facts of the case before it. It is not a guarantee of notice to the intended recipient.

Recent cases of alternate service using electronic means where defendants’ physical locations were unknown support this court’s finding that physical service is impracticable. For example, in Hollow v Hollow, the court approved email service due to the defendant’s exclusive use of that method to communicate to his children and the plaintiff. In Baidoo v Blood-Dzraku, the court approved service by Facebook messenger to serve defendant in a matrimonial action because plaintiff showed that she lacked defendant’s physical or email address and defendant regularly used his Facebook account. Most recently, in Rule of Law Socy. v Dinggang, the court authorized alternative service via WhatsApp and Twitter accounts. Here, alternate service is especially necessary because of the anonymity of the Doe Defendants.

Next, the court finds that the method of alternate service was reasonably calculated, under all the of the circumstances, to apprise the defendant of the action.

. . .

Plaintiff has demonstrated that the Doe Defendants regularly use the blockchain address and have used it as recently as May 31, 0222. Since the account contains nearly $1.3 million US Dollar Coin, plaintiff has shown that the Doe Defendants are likely to return to the account where they would find the Service Token. Communication through the account using the Service Token is effectively the digital terrain favored by the Doe Defendants. Indeed, using a blockchain transaction to communicate with the Doe Defendants is the only available manner of communication. Here, the court finds that plaintiff has sufficiently authenticated the method of communication. Therefore, plaintiff’s motion is granted to the extent that the court finds that the service
by the Service Token satisfied CPLR 308(5).

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

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