On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County.
J.h. Coleman,*fn1 Bilder and Keefe. The opinion of the court was delivered by Bilder, J.A.D.
On this appeal we are asked to determine the effectiveness of service of process in Japan on a Japanese corporation by the use of the mail procedure authorized by R. 4:4-4(c). In so doing, we are required to interpret the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (variously Hague Convention or Convention).*fn2 Both are questions of initial impression in New Jersey.
Plaintiff has filed a product liability complaint in which he alleges he was injured while using a printing press manufactured by defendant Komori Corporation*fn3 and sold to plaintiff's employer by defendant Komori America Corporation. According to defendant's affidavits, Komori is a Japanese corporation with no place of business, office, employee, servant or agent authorized to accept service of process in New Jersey, and Komori America is a wholly owned but totally separate and independent subsidiary of Komori.
Plaintiff attempted to serve Komori by serving Komori America at its New Jersey place of business and by mail service in accordance with R. 4:4-4(c) directed to Komori at its place of business in Tokyo. Komori moved in the Law Division to quash the service. In response, plaintiff filed a cross-motion for leave to take the depositions of Mitsuhiko Gotoh, General Manager of Komori's Export Department II, the individual who signed one of Komori's supporting affidavits. Without hearing oral argument, the trial Judge entered a R. 1:6-2 order in which he denied Komori's motion to quash the service and granted plaintiff
leave to depose Gotoh at plaintiff's attorney's office in Rochelle Park. Komori appeals from both aspects of the order.
Komori contends that the attempts to serve it by service on its independent subsidiary, Komori America, and by mail service to Komori at its place of business in Japan were both defective. The merit of these contentions requires a consideration of the Hague Convention, an international treaty which has been ratified by both the United States and Japan.
The Hague Service Convention is a multilateral treaty that was formulated in 1964 by the Tenth Session of the Hague Conference of Private International Law. The Convention revised parts of the Hague Conventions on Civil Procedure of 1905 and 1954. The revision was intended to provide a simpler way to serve process abroad, to assure that defendants sued in foreign jurisdictions would receive actual and timely notice of suit, and to facilitate proof of service abroad. [ Volkswagenwerk v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694, 698, 108 S. Ct. 2104, 2107, 100 L. Ed. 2d 722, 730 (1988)]
The document was designed to establish a system "for the effective, expeditious and inexpensive service of legal documents abroad." Vazquez v. Sund Emba AB, 152 A.D. 2d 389, 548 N.Y.S. 2d 728, 729 (2 Dept.1989) quoting the Report of the U.S. Delegation. It provides a mechanism by which a plaintiff authorized to serve process under the laws of its own country can effect service that will give appropriate notice to the party being served and will not be objectionable to the country in which that party is served. See DeJames v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc., 654 F. 2d 280, 288 (3rd Cir.1981), cert. den., 454 U.S. 1085, 102 S. Ct. 642, 70 L. Ed. 2d 620 (1981).
As a treaty, the Hague Convention is the supreme law of the land. See U.S. Const. Art. VI, cl. 2; Ackermann v. Levine, 788 F. 2d 830, 838 (2nd Cir.1986). When it applies, it overrides state methods of service that are objectionable to the nation in which the process is served. Committee on Federal Courts of the New York State Bar Association, Service of Process Abroad: A Nuts and ...