Case of the Day: Soft Line S.p.A. v. Italian Homes, LLC

The case of the day is Soft Lines S.p.A. v. Italian Homes, LLC (N.C. Super. Ct. 2015). Soft Line Sued Angelo Calculli, an Italian national, and Italian Homes, LLC, a North Carolina limited liability company, among others. Mr. Calculli was manager of Italian Homes. Like FRCP 4(f)(3), the North Carolina rules of civil procedure permit service by alternate means on motion. Soft Lines sought leave to serve Calculli by service on Italian Homes.

Soft Lines first sought to serve process via the Hague Service Convention, but the Italian Central Authority stated that it was unable to make service, apparently for want of a valid address—none of the addresses Italian Homes or the other defendants provided for Mr. Calculli in discovery worked. Soft Lines asked Mr. Calculli’s lawyer to accept service on his behalf, but the lawyer refused. Soft Lines’s next move was to hire a private process server in Italy, but it suspended its efforts as the price of obtaining Mr. Calculli’s deposition in Italy. The conditions Mr. Calculli put on the deposition were highly unusual. “The agreement for the deposition was conditioned on Mr. Calculli not being served with the Complaint, required to answer questions about where he resides, or asked to provide any information that would assist Plaintiff in serving him with a summons.” Really?

In these circumstances, of course the court granted leave to make service by alternate means. Mr. Calculli was active in the affairs of Italian Homes, and so the service was reasonably calculated to provide him with notice. “So long as service is reasonably calculated to give Mr. Calculli notice, due process does not further require that the individual served on behalf of Mr. Calculli represent him or be authorized to accept service on his behalf. … The Court remains mindful of the due process considerations attendant to substituted or alternative service. It will not, however, endorse evasive attempts to avoid service by one who is aware of the litigation and efforts to serve him.”

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 2012), 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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