Case of the Day: MyECheck v. Titan
Posted on April 8, 2016
The case of the day is MyECheck, Inc. v. Titan International Securities, Inc. (E.D. Cal. 2016). MyECheck claimed that it was the victim of a securities fraud perpetrated by Titan and Sweetsun Intertrade, Inc., both located in Belize. MyECheck served process by having a Belizean lawyer serve the documents on the defendants’ registered agents. After they failed to answer, it sought a default judgment.
The court expressed some doubts about whether the service was proper under the Hague Service Convention, because it was unclear to the judge whether a lawyer is one of the “the judicial officers, officials or other competent persons” permitted to make service, absent objection by the state of destination, under Article 10(c). (The judge did, though, reject MyECheck’s clearly erroneous reading, under which “competent person” is taken to mean any resident or perhaps citizen of the state of destination).
But despite doubts about Article 10, the judge went on to hold that service was proper, because Belizean domestic law provides for service of process by delivery of the documents to the registered agent. But the Convention is exclusive: what provision of the Convention authorized or permitted such service, if not Article 10(c)? The judge pointed to Article 19, without much discussion:
To the extent that the internal law of a Contracting State permits methods of transmission, other than those provided for in the preceding Articles, of documents coming from abroad, for service within its territory, the present Convention shall not affect such provisions.
This is too easy. Read as the court reads it, Article 19 is pretty powerful medicine, incorporating local law in its entirety. The question, I think, is whether Article 19 should be read in this way, or should be read to incorporate local law only to the extent it expressly has to do with actions abroad. The article, after all, refers to cases where “the internal law … permits method of transmission … of documents coming from abroad.” There is not much law on Article 19 in US cases, but it’s not obviously right that this case was correctly decided.