U.S. Supreme Court: Hague Service Convention Permits Service of Process by Mail

May 23, 2017

On May 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon that the Hague Service Convention permits service of process by mail, so long as (1) the receiving state has not objected to service by mail; and (2) service by mail is authorized independently of the Hague Service Convention under the law of the local jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is pending.

This decision resolves a long-standing uncertainty on the issue of whether the language used in the relevant part of the treaty – “the freedom to send judicial documents, by postal channels, directly to persons abroad” – covers sending documents in order to serve process, despite the lack of an explicit reference to the word “service.”  By answering this question in the affirmative, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Water Splash will make it easier for litigants bringing claims against foreign defendants in U.S. courts to effectuate service in countries that have not filed an objection to service by mail under the Hague Service Convention.