Case of the Day: House v. S.P. Richards Corp.

The case of the day is House v. S.P. Richardson Corp. (S.D. Tex. 2014). Karl House was a truck driver. He delivered a container to S.P. Richards, and when he arrived to make the delivery, he unsealed the container and opened its doors. He claimed that when he opened the doors, a file cabinet fell out of the container and struck him.

House sued S.P. Richards in the Texas state court. S.P. Richards removed the case to the federal court, and House then added Empren S. de R.L. de C.V. and EDN Mexico, S. de R.L. ce C.V. as defendants; these two Mexican entities’ role in the case is not clear in the opinion. House sent the summons and complaint to the Mexican defendants by mail, and without a Spanish translation. The Mexican defendants moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process.

Mexico is a party to the Hague Service Convention and has objected to service by mail. So there was no question that the service was invalid. The issue was whether the case against the Mexican defendants should be dismissed. The judge held that because service had not been effected, he had no choice but to dismiss the case against the Mexican defendants (though he invited House to move to add the Mexican defendants and intimated that such a motion would be granted). I think the judge was wrong to think he had no choice; he could simply have quashed the service and given House leave to attempt service again. It may not have mattered in this case, but there are going to be cases where, for limitations reasons, the difference between quashing service and dismissing a case for lack of service can be dispositive.

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