Case of the Day: Hajdinyak v. O’Connell

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Letters Blogatory remembers American hero John Glenn. Credit: NASA

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.”

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. Folkman also serves as an arbitrator and is a member of the Commercial and Consumer Panels of the American Arbitration Association. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation (J. Berger, ed. 2017), 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 and 2014 - 2016.

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