Monday, May 22, 2017

Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon, Docket 16-254

Service abroad of documents: Hague Service Convention: Jurisdiction:

This case concerns the scope of the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters, Nov. 15, 1965 (Hague Service Convention), 20 U. S. T. 361, T. I. A. S. No. 6638. The purpose of that multilateral treaty is to simplify, standardize, and generally improve the process of serving documents abroad. Preamble, ibid.; see Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, 486 U. S. 694, 698 (1988). To that end, the Hague Service Convention specifies certain approved methods of service and “pre-empts inconsistent methods of service” wherever it applies. Id., at 699. Today we address a question that has divided the lower courts: whether the Convention prohibits service by mail. We hold that it does not.

In 2013, Water Splash sued Menon in state court in Texas (…) Because Menon resided in Canada, Water Splash sought and obtained permission to effect service by mail. After Menon declined to answer or otherwise enter an appearance, the trial court issued a default judgment in favor of Water Splash. Menon moved to set aside the judgment on the ground that she had not been properly served, but the trial court denied the motion.

((…) Service of process (which we have defined as “a formal delivery of documents that is legally sufficient to charge the defendant with notice of a pending action”).

(…) Article 10 permits direct service by mail . . . unless the receiving state objects to such service.

Dept. of State, Legal Considerations: International Judicial Assistance: Service of Process (stating that “service by registered . . . mail . . . is an option in many countries in the world,” but that it “should . . . not be used in the countries party to the Hague Service Convention that objected to the method described in Article 10(a) (postal channels)”), online at (all Internet materials as last visited May 19, 2017).

In short, the traditional tools of treaty interpretation unmistakably demonstrate that Article 10(a) encompasses service by mail. To be clear, this does not mean that the Convention affirmatively authorizes service by mail. Article 10(a) simply provides that, as long as the receiving state does not object, the Convention does not “interfere with . . . the freedom” to serve documents through postal channels. In other words, in cases governed by the Hague Service Convention, service by mail is permissible if two conditions are met: first, the receiving state has not objected to service by mail; and second, service by mail is authorized under otherwise-applicable law. See Brockmeyer, 383 F. 3d, at 803–804.

Secondary sources: B. Ristau, International Judicial Assistance §4–1–4(2), p. 112 (1990 rev. ed.); Hague Conference on Private Int’l Law, Practical Handbook on the Operation of the Service Convention ¶279, p. 91 (4th ed. 2016).

(U.S.S.C., May 22, 2017, Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon, Docket 16-254, J. Alito. All other Members joined, except J. Gorsuch, who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case).

Notifications à l'étranger. La notification par poste peut être admise. Application de la Convention de La Haye.

L'affaire débute devant une cour de l'état du Texas. La demande est signifiée par voie postale à la défenderesse, laquelle réside au Canada. Elle ne dépose pas de réponse et ne comparaît pas. Un jugement par défaut est rendu en faveur du demandeur. La défenderesse dépose une demande de relief, invoquant une notification affectée d'un vice. La demande de relief est rejetée.

La Cour juge en l'espèce que la Convention de La Haye permet une notification directe et par poste à une partie, pour autant que l'état de dite partie permette une telle notification. Le Département d'état s'est prononcé dans le même sens. Encore faut-il que l'état du for le permette aussi, car la Convention se limite à prévoir qu'elle n'interfère pas avec une notification postale si l'état du défendeur permet l'usage de la voie postale.

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