Service of process internationally is a notoriously tricky endeavor, dependent on the rules of both countries involved and any treaties they may be signatories of. In an effort to workaround the many complications involved in international service, some are resorting to service by mail. By avoiding sending service through a consulate, foreign court or trying to locate an individual agent for service in a country, service by mail appears at first glance to be the simpler option until you take a closer look at its ramifications, legality and the ability to enforce resulting judgments and orders.
Is service by mail allowed internationally?
A 2017 Supreme Court decision in Water Splash Inc. v Menon determined that international service of process by mail under the Hague Service Convention was an accepted method of service. However, this only applies if the country hasn’t objected to service via mail and there are no laws restricting this type of service under the originating state’s laws. If the country is a signatory, it’s critical to research their laws and objections or consider hiring an expert to handle your service.
If the service was completed by mail and the country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, that can make the issue difficult to resolve. These days one of the first things lawyers look for when a foreign client is sued in a U.S. court is the method of service. Given the cost and amount of time associated with serving via Letters Rogatory it can be typical for clients to look for another method to serve by, including methods which may be allowed under the receiving country’s laws.
This should give pause to plaintiffs who seek to serve by mail if the country involved is not a signatory to the Hague Service Convention, given the likelihood of the service being contested and being unable to enforce a judgment. With the amount of time invested in international cases, being able to collect judgments tend to be one of the ultimate end goals. To get so far in a case as to be awarded a judgment and then failing to collect will no doubt result in significant client dissatisfaction.
Whether or not service can be completed by mail in an international matter is largely dependent on whether or not the country is a signatory to the Hague Service Convention. Even if they are however it’s important to determine if there are any existing objections or rules prohibiting service by mail. In instances where the country is not a signatory and the alternate route would be service by Letters Rogatory, service by mail is not a viable option if the plaintiff is looking to enforce a judgment.