SCOTUS Approves International Service of Process By Mail

May 30, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court rendered an 8-0 decision in Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon, on May 22, 2017, confirming that service of a complaint and summons by mail is not precluded by the Hague Service Convention (the “Convention”). 501 U.S. __ (2017). The Convention is a multilateral treaty governing service of process of legal documents from one member state to another without the need to invoke consular or diplomatic channels. The Water Splash decision, penned by Justice Alito, resolved a Circuit split over a question of great practical importance to practitioners in the growing area of cross-border litigation.

Water Splash concerned a lawsuit brought in a Texas state court by a designer and manufacturer of aquatic playgrounds against a former sales representative and Canadian resident alleging the improper use of its designs and drawings. Water Splash served the summons and complaint on the defendant, Tara Menon, by mail and a default judgment was entered when she failed to respond. The Texas Court of Appeals set aside the default judgment, finding that the Convention prohibited service of process by mail. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the issue of whether the Convention prohibits the initiation of a lawsuit through cross-border delivery of a complaint and summons by mail.

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