Case of the Day: Landauer Ltd. v. Joe Monani Fish Co.

The case of the day is Landauer Ltd. v. Joe Monani Fish Co. (N.Y. 2014). This is the appeal of the case of the day from January 9, 2013. The trial court had dismissed an action for recognition and enforcement of an English judgment on personal jurisdiction grounds, and the Appellate Division (New York’s intermediate court) affirmed. In today’s appeal, the Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court) reversed.

In the Appellate Division, the key facts (the only facts, really) that the court considered involved the method of service. The plaintiff had effected service in the English action by delivering the papers to “the only individual present” in an office to which a janitor had directed them, “without specifically asking that person if he was employed by defendant or authorized to receive service on defendant’s behalf.” The Appellate Division did not, however, note that in the parties’ contract Monani had consented to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts. This is a key fact, because under Section 5(a)(3) of the UFCMJRA, “a foreign-country judgment may not be refused recognition for lack of personal jurisdiction if the defendant, before the commencement of the proceeding, had agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign court with respect to the subject matter involved.”

The Court of Appeals focused on this provision of the statute. Of course, it’s still necessary, though not made express in Section 5(a)(3), that the defendant in the foreign action must have had fair notice of the proceedings. Here, though, Monani did have actual knowledge of the case. “[E]nforcement of a foreign judgment is not repugnant to our notion of fairness if defendant was a party to a contract in which the parties agreed that disputes would be resolved in the courts of a foreign jurisdiction and defendant was aware of the ongoing litigation in that jurisdiction but neglected to appear and defend.” In other words, if you choose a foreign court and you know of the foreign proceedings, and the foreign court is satisfied enough with the service of process that it entered a judgment against you, you can’t raise service of process issues in a challenge to recognition and enforcement. “[S]o long as the exercise of jurisdiction by the foreign court does not offend due process, the judgment should be enforced without ‘microscopic analysis’ of the underlying proceedings.”

All this said, the plaintiff should have done a better job with the service of process.

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