Case of the Day: SDS-IC v. Florida Concentrates International LLC

The case of the day is SDS-IC v. Florida Concentrates International LLC (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2015). Florida Concentrates, a Florida firm, sued SDS-IC, a Hong Kong corporation. It served process by delivery of the summons and complaint to SDS-IC’s Hong Kong registered office. The clerk entered a default after SDS-IC failed to answer, but SDS-IC then moved to vacate the default. The trial court held that the service was valid, and SDS-IC appealed.

The court held that the service was insufficient and reversed. The main ground was that the service failed to comply with the requirements of Florida law, because the return of service lacked the date and time of the service, the manner of service, and the name and position of the person served. I like this holding. With some exceptions, American courts correctly rule that Article 10 of the Convention, which “permits” various methods of service in the absence of an objection by the state where the service is to be made, does not affirmatively authorize those methods of service. So if you use a process server and seek to justify the service under Article 10(c), for example, the service needs to comply with the law of the forum. However, it wasn’t really necessary to reach the issues of Florida law. The court seemed to think that service under Articles 10(b) and (c) were permisisble in Hong Kong: “both parties agree that neither the United States nor China has made any relevant objections.” But that’s not really right. In fact, while Hong Kong has not objected to service by mail under Article 10(a), it has made a declaration with regard to Articles 10(b) and (c):

With reference to the provisions of sub-paragraphs b and c of Article 10 of the Convention, documents for service through official channels will be accepted in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region only by the Central Authority or other authority designated, and only from judicial, consular or diplomatic officers of other Contracting States.

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