Case of the Day: Cheah v. Eighth Judicial District Court

The case of the day is Cheah v. Eighth Judicial District Court (Nev. 2023). Chyuan Yong Cheah was a Malaysian national. In 2018, he rented a car in Nevada and was involved in a car accident in Las Vegas. Andre Davis, who claimed he was injured in the accident, sued Cheah in 2019, but he was unable to affect service. In 2021, the Nevada legislature passed a statute allowing for service in such cases by service on the rental car company. Davis then effected service. Cheah moved to quash the service on the grounds that the statute could not be applied retroactively. The court disagreed, reasoning that the statute was procedural, not substantive. Cheah then brought a petition for a writ of prohibition, which was in effect an interlocutory appeal. The court rejected the petition, holding that the statute could be applied retroactively.

The decision on the substance/procedure question seems clearly right. Even if a defendant has a substantive right to be served with process, I cannot imagine that he has a substantive right to be served with process in a particular way.

A slightly interesting issue was Cheah’s reliance on Tao v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 467 P.3d 636 (Nev. 2020). In that case, which arose under the nonresident motorist statute rather than under the statute about service on drivers of rental cars, the court had held that the statute, which allowed service by registered mail, was preempted by the Hague Service Convention. Because China had objected to service by postal channels, the statute could not be used to serve a defendant in China. But Malaysia is not a party to the Convention, and this reasoning is therefore inapplicable, even if due process would require the rental car company to mail notice to Cheah in Malaysia.

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