Case of the Day: Hajdinyak v. O’Connell
Posted on December 9, 2016
The case of the day is Hajdinyak v. O’Connell (Mass. App. Div. 2106). Lisa-Marie O’Connell and her family went on a vacation in Aruba. On the beach, she saw a dog, Coco, who was “dehydrated and in distress.” She cared for the dog and took it to the veterinarian, who told her that the dog was not microchipped and could not be identified. She took Coco home with her. Later, Cornelia Hajdinyak and Howard Tromp, who lived in Aruba, claimed that the dog, named Whitey, belonged to them. But O’Connell refused to return the dog, so Hajdinyak and Tromp brought a replevin action.
After trial, a judge of the Attleborough District Court refused to credit Haydinyak and Tromp’s testimony that they owned the dog. The two appealed to the Appellate Division. The main claim was that Hajdinyak and Tromp had presented as evidence a “coownership agreement” regarding the dog that had an apostille affixed. The plaintiffs argued that because of the apostille, “the judge was precluded from finding the agreement invalid, because it was self-authenticating.” The court correctly rejected this argument, noting that the apostille merely authenticated the signatures on the document and did not require the court to give the document any substantive effect. The court did not quite say so, but it seems clear that it was a mistake for the Aruba authorities to affix an apostille to the document, since it was merely a private document. Under Article 1, the Apostille Convention applies only to “public documents.”