The Italian Republic acceded to the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, on November 25, 1981, and its provisions entered into force on January 24, 1982.
US attorneys seeking service in Italy should become familiar with the mandatory character of the Convention as set forth in Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988).
Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent — Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed. Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.
Italy’s Hague Central Authority is relatively efficient in comparison to other European countries. Its speed has diminished recently, in part due to government austerity measures, but Italy still places great value on international comity. So, while the Central Authority is functioning and relatively efficient, delays in execution of Hague Requests can occur, particularly during the summer holidays when most of the country goes on vacation.
Italy has not objected to service directly through a judicial officer, but has peculiar mandates for service not required when serving through the Central Authority. Because it takes extra time to meet these requirements and because the Italian Central Authority is relatively capable, alternative channels may not always gain significant time for American litigants. Service directly via judicial officer is also more costly than standard requests under Article 5.
Italy requires a complete translation of all documents to be served. Translations of only a summons and complaint (but not exhibits) are insufficient.
Moreover, US notions of due process require that the defendant understand the documents with which he or she is being served. As such, documents served upon a recipient who speaks neither English nor Italian may even require translation into a third language. US practitioners should explore this issue with our legal staff.
The Italian Hague Central Authority:L’Ufficio unico degli ufficiali giudiziari Presso la corte d’appello di Roma Viale Giulio Cesare 52
Italy does not object to service by any of the alternative channels referenced in Article 10 of the Convention. However, these channels are not highly beneficial to American litigants. While they may expedite the process a bit, they are more costly, and still carry risks that the Central Authority channel does not.
In all cases, service via the postal channel should include a signed receipt mechanism (required under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4).
Beware, though, that mail service pursuant to the Hague Service Convention is fraught with problems — even when the destination state has not objected to such service. American jurisdictions are split regarding propriety of mail service under the Convention. Plaintiffs are advised to proceed with caution when employing this channel — and LLS recommends against using this channel for service in Italy.
Alternative service via a judicial officer requires retaining an Italian lawyer to obtain a court order instructing a bailiff to effect service — and requires the legalization of documents to be served. Service through a judicial officer is significantly higher in cost, and usually only results in service being effected four to eight weeks faster than an Article 5 request.
LLS can assist you with service and can help you understand and meet the requirements for service of process, as well as a host of other legal procedures, in Italy. Please call 1-800-755-5775 for more information.
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