Case of the Day: West v. Rieth

ERMC Headquarters
European Regional Medical Center Headquarters. Credit: US Army

The case of the day is West v. Rieth (E.D. La. 2016). The decision doesn’t explain the nature of the case. The plaintiff, Luke T. West, sought leave under FRCP 4(f)(3) to serve process by alternate means on Peggy Cuevas, who, he claimed, was employed by the US Army Regional Health Command Europe in Germany. In particular, he suggested service via the U.S. Attorney’s Office, by certified mail to Cuevas’s employer, or by email.

The court avoided deciding whether any of these means comported with the Hague Service Convention or other law, denying the motion instead on the grounds that West had not made a showing that it was necessary to resort to alternative means to serve process. This is within the court’s discretion, though in general I think it is a poor use of discretion to deny a motion for leave on these grounds, since there is no reason that one method of service should be categorically preferred over another. In any case, by resolving the motion this way, the judge avoided having to face any interesting public law issues that could, I suppose, arise if Cuevas was living or working on a US military base. In such a case, would the Convention apply at all? I don’t know enough about the law applicable to military bases to say. If the Convention did apply, then of course service by certified mail sent to Germany would be unacceptable, and in my view service by email would be out, too. Service on the U.S. Attorney would seem promising given that it would avoid implicating the Convention, but it’s unclear whether that method of service would be reasonably calculated to reach Cuevas. This was all beside the point, though, given the court’s disposition of the motion.

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