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.

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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