Case of the Day: Parsons v. Shenzen Fest Tech Co.
Posted on March 1, 2021
The case of the day is Parsons v. Shenzen Fest Tech Co. (N.D. Ill. 2021). Parsons sued Shenzen on a product liability claim in 2018. He sought to effect service of process on Shenzen, a Chinese company, via the central authority under The Hague Service Convention. But despite a long period of time and several status requests to the central authority by the “vendor” Parsons had hired to effect service, he had heard nothing from the Chinese central authority. Parsons moved for an order deeming service effected or, in the alternative, granting leave to serve process by email and publication.
The judge noted the split of opinion about whether Article 10(a) permits service by email in countries that have objected to service under Article 10(a). At least we are now at the point where there is a split of opinion! Putting the issue as I just put it—can you serve process by email under Article 10(a) in a country that has objected to service under Article 10(a)?—should make it clear that there is a plainly right answer and a plainly wrong answer to the question. Nevertheless, the judge got the issue wrong, reasoning that even if you cannot serve by email in the first instance, you can serve by email if service by the central authority mechanism fails. This is really a non-sequitur. The Convention does not make countries’ declarations conditional. I’ve explained this point many times before.
Nevertheless, the judge denied Parson’s motion. She reasoned that Parsons had not shown that the proposed method of service was reasonably calculated to give actual notice on the facts of the case, and therefore that the service would not comport with due process.