Case of the Day: Firstbank Puerto Rico v. Atlantic Finance Business Corp.

The case of the day is Firstbank Puerto Rico v. Atlantic Finance Business Corp. (D.P.R. 2014). Firstbank sued Atlantic Finance and Leovigildo Perez–Minaya for breach of contract. The defendants were served with process in the Dominican Republic, which is not a party to the Hague Service Convention or the Inter-American Convention.

There was no dispute that the method of service complied with the law of the Dominican Republic and thus with FRCP 4(f)(2)(A). Rather, the claim, which Atlantic Finance and Perez-Minaya raised on a motion to dismiss for insufficient for service of process, was that the service was untimely under the local law, which, according to the defendants, requires that service be effected “on the eighth day.” But the judge disagreed with this interpretation of the law of the Dominican Republic, holding instead that the reference to the eighth day was a reference to the time for the defendant to enter an appearance, not to service of process at all.

All of this just goes to illustrate the usefulness of the central authority mechanism in cases where service can be made under one of the two service conventions (unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here). It’s hard to figure out the law of many foreign countries, and one of the benefits of the central authority mechanism is to relieve the plaintiff of the burden of figuring out what foreign law requires. The central authority itself is responsible for serving the documents in accordance with its own local law; and US courts generally accord certificates of service returned by the central authority at least prima facie effect, thus at a minimum shifting the burden to the defendant to show that service was not properly effected.

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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