Case of the Day: Solid Systems CAD Services v. Total Risc Technology

The case of the day is Solid Systems CAD Services v. Total Risc Technology Pty Ltd. (S.D. Tex. 2013). Total Risc Technology Global Ltd. was a Chinese company with offices in the Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India. Its chief executive officer, Domenic Rommanelli, was an Australian national apparently living in Australia. Paul Garufi, perhaps an Australian but in any case present in Australia, was its CFO. Solid State served the summons and complaint on Total Risc Global via the Australian central authority; according to the Article 6 certificate, the documents were served on Total Risc Global by personal delivery to Garufi. Total Risc Global moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process, arguing that Solid Systems was required to serve process via the Chinese central authority. I assume that service on Garufi was sufficient, under Australian law, to constitute service on Total Risc Global.

The judge properly denied the motion. I like this decision, because it serves to highlight a point we’ve seen before: the Hague Service Convention is not about when it’s permissible to sue a foreign national; it’s about how it’s permissible to serve process in a foreign state’s territory. It’s important not to get concepts of immunity mixed up with concepts of a state’s right to control what happens in its territory. A foreign state can’t forbid me to sue one of its nationals, or to serve process on one of its nationals, unless the defendant has immunity (sovereign immunity, diplomatic immunity, head of state immunity, or whatever). But the foreign state can prevent me from serving process on a person in its territory—whether the person is one of its nationals or not.

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