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The Supreme Court Weighs in on Process to Foreign Defendants

globeA trial held in the Texas Court of Appeal, Fourteenth District has been brought to the Supreme Court for resolution, and the Supreme Court is now expected to make a decision regarding process to foreign defendants that will impact federal court cases as well. The original court case, Menon v. Water Splash, Inc. involved Menon attempting to appeal her trial court’s default judgment against her after she failed to answer service of process.

Menon was sent service of process by first class mail, certified mail, and Federal Express to her Canadian address and two known email addresses. In her suit, Menon claims that this method involved “unfair competition, conversion, tortious interference with business relations, and conspiracy.” Furthermore, Menon asserted that the Hague Convention’s provisions regarding Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters are exclusive. Water Splash, Inc., on the other hand, insisted that Article 10 of the Hague Convention makes it possible to utilize service by mail in such a situation, since judicial documents were mailed to a country with no objections to the procedure.

The Texas Court of Appeal voted in Menon’s favor in a 2 to 1 decision. Her default judgement was reversed, and the court differentiated between the Hague Conventions for provisions for sending documents compared to the Hague Convention provisions related specifically to service of process. Since the Texas Supreme Court refused to review the decision, it was brought to the U.S Supreme Court with the question, “Does the Hague Service Convention authorize service of process by mail?”

A decision is not expected until later in 2017, and the resolution could greatly impact the need for diplomatic channels in the future. Since this formal service of process requires more time and resources, this could have large ramifications.