[Author’s Note: This morning, Peggy and I woke up in 1882. No, really. We are on board the schooner Grace Bailey for a bit of a break from Missouri’s brutal humidity & heat; if you email me this week, fuggedaboutit. You’ll get my out-of-office response for the first time in well over two years. Our floating home cruises by wind off the coast of Maine, lacking internet access and a cell signal and electricity (horror of horrors– we actually have to read books and talk to other human beings while underway!). It seems the perfect reason to post today’s subject: serving in maritime cases. Yes, this is written in advance and scheduled to post while we’re sailing, sailing, over the bounding main. Whatever that is.]
It happens all the time. I’ll give a lecture or mention what I do at a bar association event, and the colleague I just met will express appreciation for what I do, tell me it’s a really neat niche, and then try to convince himself that our practice areas don’t overlap. I’m here to tell you that, yes, they do. The conversation usually goes something like this:
Sorry, Aaron. I’m a bankruptcy lawyer, I’ll never need to serve anybody in a foreign country. But thanks for doing that CLE. You’re a funny guy. (Funny how? I’m a clown? I amuse you?) No, I mean I really like how you got that picture of Ned Stark into your slide deck!
I don’t react positively, as you might imagine. [I explain their error here.]
Fortunately, though, folks who handle maritime claims know full well that their defendants are often located abroad– that’s the very nature of oceangoing– so they understand the deal. What they sometimes don’t understand is the point in my Boromir slide (right up there ^^^). If they’re serving Hapag-Lloyd, they can’t just serve by mail, even though mail service is clearly acceptable under the Hague Service Convention and the FRCP. See, both Article 10 and FRCP 4(f)(2)(C) only allow mail service if the destination country allows it, and Germany doesn’t. But the only way to know that is to either (1) read Germany’s declarations to the Convention or (2) read my blog on how to serve in Germany.
They also often don’t ponder the distinction between a defendant’s acceptance of service and its waiver of service. There’s a massive difference between the two– one requiring adherence to Hague requirements and the other dispensing with them altogether.
And lest they think that service on Hanjin Shipping is effective by handing the documents to the captain of one of its ships while she’s in port… ahem, no. You can’t serve the owner by merely tagging its vessel (just as you can’t serve a parent company via its U.S. subsidiary).
If you’re serving…
- Hanjin or Hyundai, you go to Korea.
- Maersk, to Denmark.
- COSCO… China.
- MSC… Switzerland. Wait– isn’t Switzerland landlocked? Well, yes, but how many maritime lawyers are part of the Kansas City bar, smart guy? (Several, as it turns out.)
All of those countries have different declarations & requirements. And if you don’t satisfy those requirements…
* One type of maritime issue that doesn’t usually need Hague analysis: cruise ships. I’m told that the terms and conditions of cruise companies’ tickets usually include a designated agent for service in the U.S. Who knew?