May 31, 2013
FLETCHER CARSON, Plaintiff,
WALSH GRIFFIN, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ALLOW ALTERNATE SERVICE
KANDIS A. WESTMORE, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Fletcher Carson, who proceeds pro se and has paid the filing fee, filed the complaint in this case on February 6, 2013. The Court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Allow Alternate Service on Defendants without prejudice on April 16, 2013. Plaintiff filed a second Motion to Allow Alternate Service of Defendants on April 22, 2013. Plaintiff asserts that he has sent all of the Defendants registered emails containing all of the service documents. The emails were sent through a service called RPost Holdings, which, according to Plaintiff, returns an acknowledgement that the recipient's email inbox received the email. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part.
A. Service on Foreign Individuals and Business
Plaintiff wishes to serve foreign individuals, including Ivan Ahmed Azziz, a "broker located in Dubai"; Daniel Okwudili Nwankwo, Azziz's attorney; Cisse Abdoulaye, an agent in Dubai; and Ben Aka, another agent in Dubai, and Walsh Griffin, a person living in Ireland. See Comp'l at 3, 6-7. Plaintiff also wishes to serve a foreign business, Walsh Capital Group, which is located in Ireland. Id. at 3.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f) ("Serving an Individual in a Foreign Country") authorizes service of process on an individual in a foreign country by any "means not prohibited by international agreement, as the court orders." A foreign business can be served in the same manner prescribed by Rule 4(f) for serving an individual, except personal delivery under (f)(2)(c)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h)(2). A method of service of process must comport with constitutional notions of due process, and must be "reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections." Rio Properties, Inc. v. Rio Int'l Interlink , 284 F.3d 1007, 1016 (9th Cir. 2002).
Ireland is a member of the Hague Convention, but Dubai is not. See
http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=17. Use of the Hague Convention procedures is mandatory if available at the place of service, but does not apply if, as in this case, the address of the person or business to be served with the document is not known. RPost Holdings, Inc. v. Kagan , 2:11-CV-238-JRG, 2012 WL 194388 *1-2 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 23, 2012). The Court has conducted a search, but has located no authority holding that international agreement prohibits service by email in either Dubai or Ireland. Thus, the Court must determine whether Plaintiff's attempt to serve these foreign individuals and business is reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise them of the action and give them an opportunity to respond.
Plaintiff wishes to serve Ivan Ahmed Azziz, a broker located in Dubai, by registered email to several email addresses through which he corresponded with Azziz. Previously, the Court found that Plaintiff's showing with respect to service on Azziz by registered email was insufficient for the following reasons: Plaintiff did not explicitly state that he communicated with Azziz through the email addresses, and, the column of the receipt authentication document labeled "opened" was blank. Plaintiff has now remedied the first defect. He now states that he communicated with Azziz hundreds of times through the email addresses. As to the second, Plaintiff has explained that, with respect to the registered email service he is using, there is a delay after the email is sent and before the receipt authentication is sent back to the sender. If the email is opened within that delay period, the "opened" column will indicate that the email has been opened. Otherwise, the "opened" column will be blank. The system does not continue to query the recipient to determine whether the email is later opened. The Court is satisfied with this explanation. Accordingly, Azziz is deemed served.
Plaintiff also seeks to serve Daniel Okwudili Nwankwo, Azziz's attorney; Cisse Abdoulaye, an agent in Dubai; and Ben Aka, another agent in Dubai, via the registered emails to Azziz's email addresses. Plaintiff has not stated that he has communicated with these individuals via email to Azziz's email addresses. Instead, Plaintiff argues that these individuals are tied to Azziz. This is insufficient for the purposes of service, as Plaintiff's emails to Azziz's email addresses will not apprise Azziz's attorney and agents of this lawsuit. The Court does not deem these individuals served.
Next, Plaintiff seeks to serve Walsh Griffin, whom he claims is an individual living in Ireland, through the email addresses email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, and Griffin's business, Walsh Capital Group, through the same email addresses. Plaintiff has now explained that he corresponded many times with Walsh Griffin through these emails. Plaintiff also seeks to serve the business, Walsh Capital Group, through the same email addresses. As the Court wrote in its previous order, it is reasonable to assume that a business checks, or ought to check, an email address that is listed on its website. Accordingly, the Court deems Walsh Griffin and Walsh Capital Group served.
II. Service on Domestic Individuals
Plaintiff seeks to serve the following individuals living in the United States: Kelvin Don, Priscilla Ellis, John Kagose, and Kenietta Johnson. See Comp'l at 2-3. Plaintiff also seeks to serve the following businesses based in the United States: Salvtore Financial Agency, KVP International Consultants, KVP International Trades,  and Vicken International Traders LLC. Id.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e)(1) provides that "an individual... may be served in a judicial district of the United States by: following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located or where service is made." As this Court is located in California, service of process is governed by California law. Section 415.30 of the California Code of Civil Procedure provides that service may be made by first-class mail to the person to be served. The sender must mail a copy of the summons and complaint to the person to be served, together with two copies of the notice and acknowledgement set out in section 415.30(b), and a return, postage-paid envelope. Service is complete when the acknowledgment is returned to the sender.
Here, Plaintiff states that mail containing a number of documents was delivered to Priscilla Ellis as CEO of KVP International Consultants, KVP International Consultants, and Kenietta Johnson and John Kagose as employees of KVP International Consultants. See Mot. at 6. Specifically, Plaintiff states that he sent "2 copies of Waiver of the Service of Summons with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for one copy to be sent back to Plaintiff." Id. But it is unclear whether this document Plaintiff refers to is the notice required under Section 415.30(b). It is unlikely, because Defendants would not be waiving service; rather, they would be accepting service by mail. In any case, Plaintiff does not state that any acknowledgments of receipt were returned to him. Accordingly, these individuals and business have not been served under Section 415.30. Plaintiff may cure this defect by re-serving these individuals and business in compliance with Section 415.30, and may file another motion for alternate service with the Court if the acknowledgments of receipt are not returned to him within 20 days of service.
Section 413.30 of the California Code of Civil Procedure states that "[w]here no provision is made in this chapter or other law for the service of summons, the court in which the action is pending may direct that summons be served in a manner which is reasonably calculated to give actual notice to the party to be served and that proof of such service be made as prescribed by the court." But because Plaintiff may still be able to serve the above individuals under Section 415.30, the requirement that "no provision is made... for the service of summons" is not yet met, and section 413.30 is not applicable.
Plaintiff states that he was unable to serve Kelvin Don, Vicken International Traders and Salvtore Financial Agency through the mail because the addresses Plaintiff had for them were fraudulent and wrong. Because Plaintiff will not be able to serve these Defendants through the mail, the Court will allow service by registered email pursuant to section 413.30.
Plaintiff explains that he corresponded with Kelvin Don through the email address email@example.com. As noted above, Plaintiff claims that he sent a registered email with service documents to Kelvin Don at this email address. The Court finds that service by registered email to this email address was accomplished, and Kelvin Don is deemed served. However, Plaintiff's motion does not explain why the business, Salvtore Financial Agency, could be served through this email address. Thus, the business is not deemed served.
As the Court noted in its previous order, Plaintiff does not explain why the entity Vicken International Traders can be served at the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Nor does Plaintiff explain why KVP Consultants can be served through this address. Plaintiff merely states that Priscilla Ellis uses this email address. Therefore, Vicken International Traders and KVP Consultants are not deemed served.
For the reasons explained above, it is hereby ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for Alternate Service is granted in part. The following individuals and businesses are deemed served: Ivan Ahmed Azziz, Walsh Griffin, Kelvin Don, and Walsh Capital Group. The remaining Defendants have not been served. This order is issued without prejudice for Plaintiff to cure the defects in service, and submit another motion for alternate service, if necessary.