Case of the Day: Grupo Famsa v. District Court

The case of the day is Grupo Famsa, S.A. de C.V. v. Eight Judicial District Court (Nev. 2016). B.E. Uno LLC was the owner of a shopping center in Las Vegas. Famsa, Inc. entered into a lease with Uno for commercial retail space. Grupo Fama guaranteed Famsa’s obligations under the lease. Uno sued Famsa and Grupo Famsa, alleging that Famsa had breached the lease. Uno served process on Grupo Fama in Mexico via the Mexican central authority. It’s not clear from the opinion how Uno requested the central authority to effect service, but I will assume that the request was for service in accordance with Mexican law rather than by a special method or by remise simple. The central authority served the documents on a person who, according to the Article 6 certificate, was “an employee in [Grupo’s] legal department.” Grupo Famsa moved to quash the service, asserting that the employee was in fact just a hostess who greeted people who came into its store. The trial court denied the motion to quash, and Grupo Famsa sought review.

The court granted the petition, vacated the lower court’s order, and remanded for an evidentiary hearing. The gist of the decision was a holding that the Article 6 certificate was not conclusive as to the validity of service of process in the face of a due process challenge.

In one sense this holding is obviously correct. If a method of service of process does not comport with due process, then it cannot be valid. On the other hand, the decision seems clearly wrong. I can imagine that service in accordance with the law of a foreign country could, in unusual circumstances, fail to meet the standard of the Due Process Clause. But when, as in this case, service in accordance with the law of the foreign country is coupled with actual notice, it’s difficult to see how there could be a due process problem. It seems to me the rule should be that where the defendant has actual notice, the Article 6 certificate should be, more or less, conclusive.

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