Case of the Day: Zavodnik v. Rinaldi

The case of the day is Zavodnik v. Rinaldi (Ind. Ct. App. 2013). Gersh Zavodnik sued Michaela Rinaldi, who resided in Italy. The opinion does not discuss the substance of the claims. The trial court dismissed the claim for failure to make service of process, and Zavodnik appealed.

The decision isn’t really sufficient to allow readers to understand what happened in the case. I understand that the decision is an “unpublished” non-precedential decision, but still, it would be better if the court had laid out the record in more detail. It appears that Zavodnik attempted to serve process via the Hague Service Convention and that he filed a proof of service. But the proof of service was not to the trial judge’s liking: “There are various documents in the file which the Plaintiff purports to be proof of service but they are apparently in Italian, without translation.” Zavodnik pointed to what he claimed were translations of the documents in the record. It’s hard to know the details given such a cursory opinion. Zavodnik also apparently misdescribed the Italian central authority’s certificate of service as an “Article 10” certificate, when perhaps he meant an Article 6 certificate. And Zavodnik, who was represented by counsel on appeal, made an argument that is both hyperbolic and disrespectful to the judges, who are presumed to know the law:

The service through the means set forth in the international treaties is a process that is not taught in any law school, is rarely if every used by attorneys or judges in the state courts and as a result there is vast unfamiliarity with these treaties. Zavodnik has done everything in accordance with the provision (sic) of the Hague Convention and could easily teach the bar of this state on the treaties and the process, and the fact that these international treaties are supreme in power, authority, validity, or importance and therefore are to be recognized by every court in the United States.

Whoa there, cowboy!

The judges clearly didn’t like Zavodnik’s style:

It may be true, as Zavodnik claims, that “service through the means set forth in the international treaties … is rarely if ever used by attorneys or judges in the state courts,” and for that reason one might have expected Zavodnik to cite and/or quote from relevant federal cases, or even the relevant provisions of the Hague Convention itself, in order to enlighten the trial court and this Court on the subject. This he did not do. Instead, all we have are his unsupported self-serving claims that he properly filled out various forms that comply with the Hague Convention and that those forms were properly processed by Italian officials and properly delivered to Rinaldi, despite the apparent lack of certification or attestation as to the authenticity of the proffered documents. This is insufficient to establish prima facie error.

In other words, maybe Zavodnik was right, but he didn’t submit a brief that was of sufficient quality to allow the judges to decide.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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