Served With a Lawsuit From Overseas? Understanding the Hague Convention

When someone is served with a lawsuit that originated overseas, they may not know how different this type of litigation can be from a domestic lawsuit. In such scenarios, if the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s home country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial & Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (“Hague Service Convention”), then the standardized method of delivering legal documents is often used.


The Hague Service Convention is an international treaty created to provide a streamlined method of serving legal documents to provide the parties with notice of pending litigation between the treaty’s signatories. This treaty provides the most widely recognized method of international service of process. In some U.S. service statutes, this method had been added as a required method of service of process. There are only about 68 countries around the world, however, are signatories to the Hague Service Convention.


Why the Hague Service Convention Matters


If a creditor has a favorable U.S. judgment or order that needs to be enforced, due process is critical. Consequently, properly serving an overseas defendant under the Hague Serice Convention is imperative. This is because if service is determined to be defective under the laws of a foreign nation it typically cannot be fixed and will negatively affect any later enforcement of a judgment or order. It is important to understand that the requirements of international service of process differ from country to country. Because it can take a few months or even a few years for international service of process to be completed, it is necessary to get it right the first time. Improper service could occur for various reasons—such as mistranslation—and will require you to start over again, increasing costs and causing delays.


What You Should Know


International service of process can sound daunting. While it is important to understand the importance of the Hague Service Convention, it is just as important to be aware that international service of process methods vary depending on the particular circumstances. An attorney should ensure that all the necessary documents are properly prepared and served via the correct avenue. Moreover, attorneys should update the court and client on the progress of international service.


In countries that are not signatories to the Hague Service Convention letters rogatory and private service of process are available options. Letters rogatory is a request signed by the forum court in the United States and sent through diplomatic channels to the courts of a foreign nation asking for judicial assistance on the international level. If the plaintiff’s counsel believes that a U.S. judgment may ultimately need to be enforced, this is the formal process that should be considered. Some countries—such as Austria—require letters rogatory. Private service of process, on the other hand, typically does not exist as an industry outside of the United States. While there are some private service options available, it is more difficult to enforce a U.S. judgment in a foreign country if service of process occurs privately.


If you need litigation support for an international lawsuit, contact Ancillary Legal today. We can provide assistance for all your litigation needs.

For assistance with depositions, videography, or transcripts, contact us at Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting.