Monday, August 2, 2010

International Service of Process: Why Every Attorney Should Beware

by Nelson Tucker, CEO, Process Service Network

Not only did law school minimize the importance of the laws related to service of process, but they did not even mention international service.

Now, with the world shrinking and the global economy expanding, litigation between parties in the United States and foreign countries is increasing at a substantial rate annually. No doubt, within a short period of time, most U.S. attorneys will be faced with having a foreign defendant served with legal documents. What do you do, then?

Most international disputes arise from such areas as personal injury, trademark and patent infringement, products liability, family law, collections, and real estate matters.

International service of process seems to be a maze until you discover that certain treaties and local laws may apply. The most widely used treaty is the “Hague Service Convention” which outlines the methods of service in a specific country. Another “formal” method of international service is by Letters Rogatory, a cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming method that should be used only as a last resort.

[" most instances, state law does not apply to service outside the United States…"]

Understanding the procedures for compliance with applicable treaties and local laws will avoid civil and criminal penalties against the attorney and client who violate the law, albeit unknowingly. In most instances, state law does not apply to service outside the United States, so it is essential that the process begin with a complete understanding of the laws of the country involved.

Some nations, such as Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Korea, Argentina and Italy currently outlaw service by private party. Others such as Taiwan, Australia, The Philippines, and Saudi Arabia do not have treaties in force and allow service by an “informal” method, such as by private process server.

Many nations require the court documents to be translated into the official language of that country, while others accept an English version. Translation costs can often exceed the fee for service so it is vital to consult with us prior to filing the case, if possible.

The greatest challenge for most international services is meeting court-established deadlines. An extension of time for completion of service can normally be obtained by providing the court with a proper declaration from the process server.

Although few private process servers understand the rules related to international service, we specialize in serving the needs of clients in foreign markets where the maze is simplified.

Five Things to Consider with International Service of Process

  1. If you plan to enforce the judgment in the foreign country, “formal” service is recommended
  2. Only use an experienced and qualified process service company who understands the barriers to service and who can overcome them
  3. Allow sufficient time for completion of service as work habits and customs in other nations typically cause delays that we do not experience
  4. Price is important but the successful completion of the service in the foreign nation is the ultimate goal
  5. Utilize the expertise of an international service of process specialist like us. Feel free to email ( or call with your questions to 800-417-7623.

Click on for specific country

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