Case of the Day: Elobied v. Baylock

The case of the day is Elobied v. Baylock (E.D. Pa. 2014). Hashim Elobied sued Trescott Baylock for breach of an oral contract for the purchase and sale of a Bentley Continental GT. Let me just pause to marvel at an oral contract for the purchase of a Bentley. I’m not sure which law applies to the substance of this case, but I hope the governing law doesn’t have the Statute of Frauds!

Elobied asserted that Baylock was an American citizen residing in Switzerland, but that Baylock’s physical address was unknown. He sought leave to serve him by email.

The judge denied the motion. First, he determined that the Hague Service Convention applied, even though Baylock’s address was unknown. This is incorrect, prima facie, as Article 1 of the Convention expressly says that the Convention does not apply if the address of the party to be served is unknown. The judge, though, held that it was enough that Baylock’s email address was known. In support of this view, he cited the Third Edition of the Handbook on the Practical Operation of the Convention. I believe this view is incorrect in light of the many cases that have approved service by email on defendants in Hague Convention states, but I am willing to overlook it, because the judge got the main question right. He held that the Convention did not permit service by email in Switzerland, because even if email comes within the definition of “postal channels” for purposes of Article 10(a), Switzerland has objected to service by postal channels. Way to go, Judge Eduardo C. Robreno! (I say this even though I have to say the case is wrongly decided insofar as it misses the point about Article 1 and unknown addresses).

This is an important case, because it refutes the shoddy reasoning of Gurung v. Malhotra and its progeny.

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