Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: May 22, 2017
  • Case #: 16-254
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Gorsuch, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Hague Service Convention allows for service of process by mail.

Petitioner, a corporation, sued Respondent, a former employee. Respondent resided in Canada and Petitioner obtained permission to effect service by mail. Respondent declined to answer and the Texas trial court issued a default judgment in favor of Petitioner. Respondent appealed and argued that service by mail does not comport with the requirements of the Hague Service Convention (“Convention”). The Texas Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Respondent, holding that the Convention prohibits service of process by mail. The Texas Supreme Court denied discretionary review. The relevant text of the Convention is in Article 10, which says that “Provided the State of destination does not object, the present Convention shall not interfere with—(a) the freedom to send judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad . . .” Although Article 10(a) does not expressly refer to “service,” the U.S. Supreme Court held that the phrase “send judicial documents” in Article 10(a) includes sending documents for the purposes of service. To interpret the Convention, the Court began with the text and context. The preamble, Article 1, and the Convention’s full title reveal that the Convention is limited to service of documents. Respondent argues that Article 10(a) applies only to the service of post-answer judicial documents. However, the Court held that the drafters would have explicitly stated a limited application if they meant it. Rather, the word “send” is broad enough to cover the transmission of any judicial documents. Even if Respondent’s argument is enough to create an ambiguity in Article 10(a), the Convention’s drafting history, the views of the Executive Branch, and the views of other signatories also suggest that Article 10(a) allows service by mail. Therefore, service by mail is permissible under the conditions of Article 10(a). VACATED and REMANDED.

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