Case of the Day: Vuillermin v. Mitsubishi
Posted on November 27, 2017
The case of the day is Vuillermin v. Mitsubishi Electric Europe BV (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2017). Christophe Vuillermin, a Frenchman, was convicted of fraud in France. After he completed his prison term, Vuillermin “absconded,” ending up in Miami. The victim of the fraud, Mitsubishi, brought a civil claim in connection with the criminal case (in the civil law, a civil claim can “piggyback” on a criminal claim in a way that doesn’t happen in common law jurisdictions), and in 2006 the French court entered a civil default judgment for € 237,438.11. Mitsubishi began garnishment proceedings in France. Vuillermin objected “solely on the grounds that he was not given notice of the rendition of the 2006 judgment,” but he did not claim a defect in service of the original process (apparently he could not make that argument under French law, because “he had fled the jurisdiction”). The French courts upheld the original judgment and the garnishment, “finding that Vuillermin had fled the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution and had not provided a current, valid address for notice.” Mitsubishi then sought and received recognition of the French judgment in Florida. Vuillermin appealed.
The court affirmed without too much trouble. There are two points that I think are worth a bit more explanation. First, what was the reason for the court’s view that Vuillermin had “absconded” or “fled the jurisdiction?” Apparently he had been convicted of fraud and served his sentence. Did he have an obligation to remain in France? This is unclear to me, but perhaps it would be clear to a French lawyer. A related question is why Vuillermin was said to have an obligation to provide a “current, valid address for notice” after he completed his sentence? Was it because the civil case was brought as an adjunct to the criminal case?
Second, given that Vuillermin apparently argued in Florida that he had not validly been served with process, and given that there was a procedural bar to raising that argument in France, should he have been permitted to argue it in Florida, given that in general, a judgment is void if there was not valid service of process?