Case of the Day: Fisher v. Petr Konchalovsky Foundation

Still Life with Grinder
Still Life with Grinder. Credit: artnet.com

The case of the day is Fisher v. Petr Konchalovsky Foundation (S.D.N.Y. 2016). Fisher owns a painting that he claims is Still Life with Grinder, by Russian artist Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky. Fisher’s claim was that the Foundation, based in Moscow, had wrongfully declared the painting to be inauthentic. Fisher sought leave under FRCP 4(f)(3) to serve process on the Foundation by mail, but the judge denied the motion on the grounds that although Russia has unilaterally suspended compliance with the Hague Service Convention for requests for service emanating from the United States, it has nevertheless objected to service by postal channels. Its refusal to honor the treaty does not override its objections to service by postal channels under Article 10(a).

Fisher then sought leave under FRCP 4(f)(3) to serve process by email. My perspective on this should be familiar. Service has to be by a method authorized by the Hague Service Convention. You’re not going to allow service by mail because Russia objected to service by mail under the Convention—fine. Should you allow service by email? Well, what provision of the Convention authorizes it or even permits it? The answer, none, except possibly Article 10(a), the article on service by postal channels, but the whole reason we’re in this mess is because Russia does not allow service under Article 10(a).

But as longtime readers know, this analysis has not proved persuasive to very many American courts. Indeed, there are so many district court decisions to choose from that when granting Fisher’s motion, the judge did not even have to cite the leading case, Gurung v. Malhotra. Sigh.

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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