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In an earlier post, we were critical of a district court’s calculus as to whether service of process to a country that was a signatory to the Hague Service Contention was proper.[1] Specifically, we took issue with the Caniff court for ignoring Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk in granting a motion for alternative service.

Now, less than a month later, a district court at the other end of the Mississippi River has provided a proper analysis when deciding whether service in a Hague signatory country is properly executed.

An Overview of the Case

Howard v. Krull[2] is an automobile accident case where the defendant/driver of the car resides in Germany.

Although the case was removed to federal court, the plaintiff’s position was that service was proper because it was done in accordance with Louisiana Revised Statute § 13:3474 and 3475. The German defendant, however, alleged that service was not in fact proper since it was not done in accordance with the Hague Convention.

The Court began its analysis by observing:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(1) provides that an individual may be served outside of the United States “by any internationally agreed means of service that is reasonably calculated to give notice, such as those authorized by the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents” (the “Hague Convention”). The Hague Convention “prescribes the exclusive means for service of process emanating from one contracting nation and culminating in another.”[3]

Does the Hague Convention Apply in this Case?

After discussing the mechanics of Hague service via a Central Authority (Article 5 service), the Court stated that “[t]he only question, then, is whether the Hague Convention applies in this case.”

To which the court answered:

“Germany and the United States are both signatories to the Hague Convention.” “Article 1 defines the scope of the Hague Convention and states: `The present Convention shall apply in all cases, in civil or commercial matters, where there is occasion to transmit a judicial or extrajudicial document for service abroad.'” “Use of the Hague Convention procedures, when available, is mandatory if the documents must be transmitted abroad to effect service,” but it is not mandatory if a defendant is served without sending any documents abroad.

In Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, the plaintiff relied on Illinois’ long-arm statute to serve a foreign corporation. The long-arm statute authorized the plaintiff to serve the foreign defendant by substituted service on the defendant’s wholly owned domestic subsidiary because that subsidiary was a statutory agent for service of process. The Supreme Court held the plaintiff’s service on the subsidiary did not require the transmission of documents for service abroad and accordingly did not implicate the Hague Convention.[4]

Does Service Under Louisiana Revised Statute § 13:3474 and 3475 Require Transmission of Documents Abroad?

The court then cited and discussed Louisiana Revised Statute § 13:3474 and 3475, which authorizes the Secretary of State to be served on behalf of drivers.

The Court stated:

The central dispute in this case is whether Plaintiffs service under § 3474 requires Plaintiff “to transmit a judicial or extrajudicial document for service abroad.” “If [§ 3474] requires transmission abroad to effect service, the Convention applies; if, however, service can be effected without the transmission abroad of documents, the Hague Convention does not apply and service is proper according to the state method.”

…Under § 3474, “service on the defendant is complete when the Secretary of State is served.” Nevertheless, § 3475 requires “that notice of such service, together with a copy of the petition and citation, is forthwith sent by the plaintiff by registered mail or certified mail with receipt requested, or is actually delivered to the defendant and the defendant’s returned receipt… or affidavit of the party delivering the petition and citation… is filed in the proceedings before judgment can be entered against the defendant.”[5]

The Court further observed that:

Many courts have held that if a nonresident motorist service statute, such as § 3474, requires the plaintiff or secretary of state to send notice of service to a defendant by mail, the Hague Convention is implicated, even if the state statute appoints the secretary of state as a defendant’s agent for service.[6]

Conclusion

In this case, the Secretary of State would need to transmit the documents to be served “abroad.”[7] Accordingly, the Hague Convention applies and “therefore, governs the sufficiency of service of process in this case.”[8]

How ULS Can Help

International service of process is complex and should never be attempted without the help of experienced professionals. At LLS, we have more than 35 years of experience effecting service in 90+ countries. We can advise you on exactly how your Hague Service Request should be prepared, how it will travel through the foreign judicial system, and what potential pitfalls it may encounter along the way. Additionally, if Hague service is not an option, our staff attorneys can help you explore other options and determine the best method for service.

Contact LLS today to learn more about how we can assist you.

Call 1-800-788-0450 or simply fill out our free quote form.

 

Addenda: The above case was heard in the ED of Louisiana. On 28 February 2020, the WD of Louisiana handed down a very similar opinion: Plaintiffs cannot avoid Hague service upon foreign defendants by evoking the State statutes. Hyman v. VOV GmbH, Civil Action No. 1:19-CV-00206 (WD LA 2020).

Notes
[1] Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Caniff, Case No. 19-cv-293 (ND Ill 2020).
[2] Civil Docket No. 19-12501 (E.D. Louisiana March 9, 2020).
[3] Footnotes omitted; emphasis added.
[4] Footnotes omitted.
[5] Id.
[6] For example see Heredia v. Transportation S.A.S., 101 F. Supp. 2d 158, 160 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (citing N.Y. VEH. & TRAF. LAW § 253).
[7] The court did not discuss the fact that Germany has opposed mail service (Article 10(a) service); and thus mail service by the Secretary of State to Germany is verboten under German law.
[8] Curcuruto v. Cheshire, 864 F. Supp. 1410, 1411 (S.D. Ga. 1994) (citing Wasden v. Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.,131 F.R.D. 206 (M.D. Fla. 1990) (finding Hague Convention invoked by similar Florida law requiring that process filed with Secretary of State be mailed to defendant)).

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