Thursday, June 11, 2020
California Supreme Court Decision on the Hague Convention and Contractual Waivers of Service of Process
In April, the Supreme Court of California issued a unanimous decision in Rockefeller Technology v. Changzhou SinoType Technology, 460 P.3d 764 (Cal. 2020), on the ability of parties to contractually consent to service of process by methods contrary to those allowed by the Hague Convention. Justice Corrigan’s opinion begins:
The parties here, sophisticated business entities, entered into a contract wherein they agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of California courts and to resolve disputes between them through California arbitration. They also agreed to provide notice and “service of process” to each other through Federal Express or similar courier. The narrow question we address is whether the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, November 15, 1965, 20 U.S.T. 361, T.I.A.S. No. 6638 (Hague Service Convention or “the Convention”) preempts such notice provision if the Convention provides for a different method of service. Consistent with United States Supreme Court authority, we conclude that the Convention applies only when the law of the forum state requires formal service of process to be sent abroad. We further conclude that, because the parties’ agreement constituted a waiver of formal service of process under California law in favor of an alternative form of notification, the Convention does not apply.