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International service of process and the taking of evidence overseas require specialized expertise such as that garnered by Legal Language Services during the last thirty five plus years of doing business. It follows that, in the absence of such expertise, bad things can happen as demonstrated in the case of Parsons v. Shenzen Fest Tech Co.[1]

The plaintiff would have likely had a better outcome if LLS had provided assistance with the service of process. Indeed, the professionals at LLS have actual experience not only with the issues in the case, but also with serving the specific defendant referenced.

A Brief Overview of Parsons v. Shenzen Fest Tech Co.

Briefly, in Parsons, the plaintiff attempted to serve a Chinese manufactory in a products liability case. The plaintiff hired a third party vendor to effect service during a period when the Chinese Central Authority was operating at a markedly slower pace than usual. (It has since improved its functionality.)

After the Chinese Central Authority had the request for service for more than a year, the plaintiff contemplated filing for an Article 15 default judgment, but never actually filed such a motion.[2]

Now, three years after the original filing, the plaintiff in Parsons has filed for service by other means, more specifically by email.

Determining Whether Email Service in China is Proper

The trial court observed that when it comes to service by email, the Hague Service Convention is silent. Not surprisingly, courts are accordingly divided on whether email service is proper in China given China’s opposition to postal service.

The court also discussed the important email case of Luxottica Group S.p.A. v. Partnerships and Unincorporated Associations Identified on Schedule “A.”[3]

The court distinguished Parsons from Luxottica Group S.p.A. because the latter contemplated email service after it was clear that Hague service to China had failed.[4]

However, the court ruled that email service was not appropriate in the case at hand because:

There does not appear to be any specific criteria that must be satisfied in order for electronic service on a foreign defendant to satisfy due process. However, courts that have permitted electronic service have found it complied with due process when, for example: (i) the plaintiff provided the e-mail address, account, and/or website through which the plaintiff intends to contact the defendant; (ii) the plaintiff provided facts indicating the defendant to be served would likely receive the summons and complaint; (iii) the e-mail address used was for the defendant’s retained attorney; (iv) the summons and complaint were translated into the language spoken in the nation in which service was effectuated; and/or (v) multiple valid forms of service were attempted.

Issue I: Article 15 Default Judgment

The opinion in Parsons does not disclose why the plaintiff elected not to file for an Article 15 default judgment in a timely fashion. Had the plaintiff done so, the litigation might have ended by now.

In the past, LLS both successfully served the Parsons’ defendant and provided an affidavit of due diligence that was successfully used to obtain an Article 15 default judgment.

Issue II: Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co.

Anyone remotely familiar with the case law regarding service of process knows about Mullane.[5]

Accordingly, anyone familiar with the case law regarding service of process would immediately recognize that that long quote from the court’s opinion (reproduced above) is tantamount to a seventy year update of the “Mullane factors” for determining proper service.

Thus it seems evident that in Parsons the plaintiff was not aware of the Mullane opinion. The question is why?

If the plaintiff did not solicit input from the third party vendor who provided the initial assistance with service upon the Chinese manufacturer, that was a mistake. Indeed, the vendor should have taken the initiative to consult with the attorney (as is done by LLS) and discuss strategies such as alternative service abroad.

Alternatively, if the attorney did take the initiative to discuss strategies with the vendor, then it would appear that the attorney was ill advised.

The Bottom Line

When you select a third party vendor to assist with international service of process or taking evidence overseas, remember to do your due diligence and select a vendor with the experience to guide you through the process and exponentially increase your odds of a favorable outcome.

If you require assistance serving process or taking evidence internationally, trust the professionals at LLS. Contact Legal Language today.

Call us at 1-800-755-5775 or simply fill out our free quote form.


[1] 1:18-cv-08506 (ND Il 2018).
[2] Parsons, at FN3.
[3] 18 CV 2188, 2019 WL 2357011, at *3 (N.D. Ill. June 4, 2019)
[4] Parsons found that “service via e-mail and electronic publication is facially permitted by Rule 4(f)(3).”
[5] 339 U.S. 306 (1950).

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