The case of the day is DDR Señorial LLC v. Prestige Holdings, Ltd. (D.P.R. 2016). DDR was a Delaware company doing business in Puerto Rico. The defendant, Prestige, was a Trinidad & Tobago company. Trinidad & Tobago is not party to the Hague Service Convention. DDR sought to make service under FRCP 4(f)(2)(A), i.e., “as prescribed by the foreign country’s law for service in that country in an action in its courts of general jurisdiction.” It served the papers by personal delivery to Prestige’s principal place of business. Prestige moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process.
Apparently personal service is a valid method of service in the domestic actions in the courts of Trinidad & Tobago. But as judge observed, FRCP 4(f)(2)(A) should not be construed to permit service by the methods permissible in domestic actions when the foreign state has enacted a law mandating a particular method of service in foreign actions, citing Grand Entertainment Group, Ltd. v. Star Media Sales, Inc., 988 F.2d 476, 487 (3d Cir. 1993). So the question was whether Trinidad had enacted such a statute, and if so, whether the service complied with it.
The judge looked to Part 76 of the Civil Proceeding Rules 1998, which, he said, required service to be by letter rogatory. This is, I think, almost certainly a misreading of the rule, though I am no Trinidadian lawyer. Part 76.1 reads:
- This Part deals with the service on a person in Trinidad and Tobago of any process in connection with civil or commercial proceedings in a foreign court or tribunal where the court receives a written request for service—
- from the Minister with responsibility for External Affairs, with a recommendation by him that service should be effected; or
- where the foreign court or tribunal is in a [Hague Service] Convention country, from a consular or other authority of that country.
The rule then goes on to give requirements for the service of process received in this way. It seems pretty clear to me that the purpose of the rule is to provide for the procedure when the court receives a request for service from abroad, not to proscribe any other methods of service. Nothing in the rule suggests that outcome. But I invite Trinidadian lawyers to comment.