Squarely in the heart of the Caribbean Sea lies an island that has played host to countless movies, spring break junkets, and movies about spring break junkets. The mere mention of Jamaica conjures images of Bob Marley, cabanas under palm trees, and scantily clad beachgoers who have escaped the frigid northern winter. And lots of tour packages… which naturally leads to lots of litigation.
Jamaica is not party to the Hague Service Convention (HSC), although it has acceded to the Hague Apostille and Child Abduction Conventions. Notwithstanding its absence from the HSC, serving documents in Jamaica is relatively straightforward, owing to its status as a former British colony and current member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It maintains a healthy common law system, so it should not be unfamiliar to American or Canadian* lawyers.
Service of U.S. (and most likely, Canadian) process can be effected (1) by mail, if permissible under forum court rules, (2) by Letter Rogatory, or (3) via private process server. In all cases, enforcement of a judgment must be kept in mind– and it is in that light that I recommend Door #3 for just about every case that come across my desk (yes, I’ll be happy to handle things for you). Addressing each in turn:
- Mail: Most U.S. courts, where service is allowable by mail to begin with, allow mail service on foreign defendants only where it is not prohibited by the rules of the foreign jurisdiction. Frankly, I’m still not a big fan of service by mail– it’s a bad idea when there are other practical methods available.
- Letter Rogatory: an official request from the forum court for judicial assistance from a Jamaican court. Costly and time consuming, this instrument really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (see here for elaboration on what it is). For starters, budget a $2,275 fee to the Department of State just to convey the thing. Then anticipate several months of waiting before a response comes back through diplomatic channels. A Letter Rogatory simply isn’t necessary to ensure that service is effected according to Jamaican law.
- Private process server: Significantly faster than a Letter Rogatory, and certainly on a more solid factual footing than mail. A Jamaican process server can ensure that local rules are followed, thus ensuring that the manner of service will not give a court cause to reject an enforcement action later. Just make sure that the proof of service demonstrates compliance with both bodies of law– down there and here at home.
Some non-Hague jurisdictions present significant problems with service. Jamaica is definitely not one of them— indeed, it is among the simplest places to serve, either within or outside the Hague community.
* Commonwealth procedures may govern the manner in which Canadian process should be served in Jamaica. The author is not admitted to practice in any non-U.S. jurisdiction, so although the information presented here may be accurate, it should not be presumed to be exclusively applicable in Canadian causes of action.
You really didn’t think I’d let this post end without a picture of a bobsled, did you?