Case of the Day: Narbut v. Manulife

The case of the day is Narbut v. Manulife Financial Corp. (D. Mass. 2020). Paula Narbut alleged that she slipped and fell on a wet floor in the lobby of a building owned by Manulife, a Canadian company. She sued for negligence. Narbut made a request to the Canadian central authority to serve process on Manulife, and the central authority served a “senior legal assistant” at the company’s Toronto office. Manulife moved to dismiss for insufficient service of process, arguing that the legal assistant was not a proper person to receive service under Ontario’s rules of civil procedure.

I haven’t seen this issue in a while. My view is that a US court should not second-guess the certificate of a foreign central authority that it has effected service under its local law. I suppose it is possible to imagine a case that is so unusual that it calls for a different rule, but this case isn’t it. At least where it is clear that the service comported with due process and the defendant had actual notice, it seems unwise to encourage US ancillary litigation about the correct interpretation of foreign civil procedure law. In short, I think an Article 6 certificate from the central authority should have more or less conclusive effect in the absence of concerns about actual notice or due process.

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