Case of the Day: Trzaska v. L’Oréal
Posted on December 13, 2017
The case of the day is Trzaska v. L’Oréal USA, Inc. (D.N.J. 2017). Steven Trzaska, a lawyer, was the head of patents for L’Oréal USA, a subsidiary of L’Oréal S.A., a French company. After his employment was terminated, he sued for wrongful discharge. Trzaska served process on L’Oréal S.A. by mail to L’Oréal’s CEO in Paris. L’Oréal moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process.
The judge agreed with L’Oréal that the service was improper. She noted that France had not objected to service by mail under Article 10(a) of the Hague Service Convention, but she also noted that under Water Splash, the Convention itself does not affirmatively authorize service by mail. “Federal law does not authorize service by mail when sent by a party via the postal service to a foreign entity outside of the United States,” the judge wrote. I assume the judge meant to say that federal law does not authorize the plaintiff so serve process by mail: FRCP 4(f)(2)(C)(ii) and 4(h)(2) authorize service by mail if the mail is addressed and dispatched by the clerk. The judge went on to note that the method of service was not effective under French law and thus not authorized by FRCP 4(f)(2)(A) and 4(h)(2).
But the judge “reject[ed] Defendant’s characterization of Plaintiff’s service attempts as “lax,” “intentionally cavalier” or “lacking any respect for the rules of service of process abroad and the basic principles of due process,” calling it “hyperbole.” A good reminder for defendants not to try to shoot the moon.