Case of the Day: Copia Communications v. AMResorts

The case of the day is Copia Communications LLC v. AMResorts, LP (E.D. Pa. 2017). Copia had a contract with Seawind Key Investments Ltd., a Jamaican company, to provide internet service at two Seawind hotels, Secrets St. James Montego Bay and Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay. Copia sued Seawind after a dispute arose. Their contract provided: “service of any legal proceedings concerning or arising out of this Agreement shall be effected by causing the same to be delivered to the statutory agent or company secretary of the party to be served at its registered office …” Copia served process by delivering the summons and complaint to Seawind’s security coordinator and its assistant security manager. The court entered Seaward’s default, and Seaward moved to set the default aside on the grounds that it had not been properly served.

It was clear that Copia didn’t comply with the provisions of the contract on service of process. What is the status of an agreement like this? A defendant can, of course, waive service of process, and in the context of arbitration the parties can agree to the method for delivery of documents including the notice of arbitration. But does a contract like this one supplement FRCP 4? Does it supplant FRCP 4?

It seems that it at least supplements Rule 4. If a defendant can waive service of process altogether, it seems he should be able to waive insistence on strict compliance with FRCP 4 by agreeing to methods of service not contemplated by the Rule.

A more interesting question is whether the parties can, by agreement, restrict the methods of service available under FRCP 4. Today’s case doesn’t answer the question, though, because the court held that the service of process did not satisfy FRCP 4. Jamaica is not a party to the Hague Service Convention. So under FRCP 4(h)(2) and 4(f)(2)(A), the service is good only if it met the standards of Jamaican law. The judge looked at the relevant Jamaican rules and held that it did not. If the service had satisfied FRCP 4, then we might have had a decision about whether it was nevertheless insufficient in light of the contract, but we’ll have to wait for another case.

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