Case to Watch: Aljabri v. Bin Salman
Posted on November 16, 2020
I’m keeping an eye on Aljabri v. Bin Salman, a blockbuster complaint brought by Dr. Saad Aljabri, who claims that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Bin Salman, is trying to have him killed. The complaint alleges that after he fled from Saudi Arabia, Dr. Aljabri received a Whatsapp message from the Crown Prince demanding that he return immediately. So it seems that Dr. Ajabri has the Crown Prince’s Whatsapp number. So perhaps it’s not surprising that he has purported to serve process on him via Whatsapp. Saudi Arabia is not a party to the Hague Service Convention, so if the court has authorized it, the service probably complies with US law. Curiously, the docket does not seem to show a motion for leave to serve by alternate means under FRCP 4(f)(3), though there are several documents filed under seal, and I suspect one of them is a motion for leave to serve by alternate means.
Apps like Whatsapp and Signal have a pretty robust “read receipt” feature, which makes this an interesting method of service from a technical perspective. Still, you have to think that this method of service really only makes sense if you’re contemplating enforcement in the US or at least if you’re not contemplating enforcement in Saudi Arabia. I don’t say that because I have any expertise in Saudi law, but because such nontraditional ethods of service have not (yet?) been found acceptable in many places. But the Crown Prince has appeared in the case and sought an extension of time to answer. It will be interesting to see whether he moves to dismiss, and if he does, whether the motion will raise issues of service. The answer or motion is due next month, and I will keep you posted.