Case of the Day: J&H International v. Karaca Zucciye Tic. San A.S.

The case of the day is J&H International v. Karaca Zucciye Tic. San A.S. (D.N.J. 2012). J&H had a contract with Karaca Zucciye (known as “KRC”) for the sale of more than $2.6 million of stainless steel cutlery stamped or etched with KRC’s name. J&H was a New Jersey business, but its factory was in China. KRC was a Turkish corporation with its headquarters in Istanbul. J&H shipped the goods, but a dispute about the contract developed, and J&H sued KRC in New Jersey.

J&H transmitted the summons and complaint via the central authority mechanism under the Hague Service Convention. The Turkish Central Authority returned an Article 6 certificate stating that service had been made (although the Central Authority could have done a better job checking the appropriate boxes on the certificate—it’s unclear which prong of Article 5 was at play). On the basis of this service of process, J&H obtained a default judgment when KRC failed to answer the complaint. KRC then moved for relief from the judgment, arguing, among other things, that the service was faulty.

According to the Turkish Central Authority’s Article 6 certificate (as summarized by the judge—the relevant part of the certificate itself is in Turkish and I cannot read it), the documents were served on Gamze Göbal, who, according to KRC, was not authorized to receive service. According to KRC, Turkish law requires service to be made on “an authorized person that is entitled to act on behalf of the company and who has been officially deemed a ‘signatory’ in writing by the company.” The judge discounted this argument, noting that J&H had complied with the Convention and refusing to second-guess the Turkish Central Authority’s assertion that service had been effected.

I more or less agree with the outcome. The only questionable aspect of the case is the Turkish Central Authority’s failure to indicate the method of service in a clear way on the certificate. I think there is an argument to be made that where the Central Authority fails to state affirmatively that service was made in accordance with its local law, the usual rule that courts should defer to the foreign central authority as to matters of foreign law is weakened.

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