Case of the Day: Alvarado-Fernandez v. Mazoff

The case of the day is Alvarado-Fernandez v. Mazoff (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2014). Matthew Mazoff sued Paola Alvarado-Fernandez, a Colombian national and resident, for injuries allegedly caused by an automobile accident. Alvarado-Fernandez moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process. The trial court denied the motion, and Alvarado-Fernandez appealed. Colombia is a party to the Inter-American Convention (it acceded to the Hague Service Convention in 2013, after the time relevant to the case).

The court noted, correctly, that while the Hague Service Convention is exclusive, the Inter-American Convention is not. Readers should bear in mind the court’s somewhat careless phrasing on this point. The court characterized the Hague Convention as “mandatory,” but in the parlance of the literature, we say that the Hague Convention is non-mandatory but exclusive: it doesn’t apply in every case, but when it does apply, you have to use one of the methods it provides. The Inter-American Convention is non-mandatory and non-exclusive: unlike the Hague Convention, even when it applies, you are still free to use methods of service permitted under the law of the forum that the Convention does not itself authorize.

The court went on to hold that Mazoff had complied with Florida’s substituted service statute, which permits service on the Secretary of State, with a copy to Alvarado-Fernandez by mail, in cases of automobile negligence.

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