Case of the Day: Lake Road Trust Ltd. v. ABB Powertech

The case of the day, Lake Road Trust, Ltd. v. ABB Powertech (Pty) Ltd. (Conn. Super. Ct. 2011), involves a challenge to service of process under the Hague Service Convention in Sweden. Lake Road owned and operated a power plant in Connecticut. Naphthenics, a Swedish firm, supplied insulating oil for the transformers used in the plant. A transformer “suffered an electrical arcing event”, which resulted in a power outage. An investigation determined that Naphthenics’s oil was contaminated and that the contamination caused the outage. Lake Trust sued Naphthenics on product liability theories. After the outage but before the lawsuit, Naphthenics merged into its parent company, AB Nynas Petroleum. Lake Trust sued AB Nynas, too, on a successor liability theory.

Lake Trust apparently served AB Nynas via the Swedish central authority. The central authority’s certificate indicated that service was made on AB Nynas’s CFO. AB Nynas moved to dismiss, arguing that under Connecticut law, Lake Trust was required to serve AB Nynas’s corporate secretary rather than the CFO.

As the court framed the issue, another Connecticut statute authorized service on the CFO, and therefore the motion to dismiss had to be denied. But assuming that Lake Trust did not specifically request service on the CFO under Article 5(b) of the Convention (and why would it have?), the question under Article 5(a) was whether the service complied with Swedish law; Connecticut law should not have been relevant. And the Swedish central authority’s certificate of service is prima facie evidence that the service did indeed comply with Swedish law.

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