RIO PROPERTIES V. RIO INTERNATIONAL INTERLINK
9th Cir. March 20, 2002
By Geoff Rhodes
COLUMBIA, SC - The Rio case involves an appeal from a default judgment by a Costa Rican internet company. Although the underlying trademark law is never reached, the case does present an important point of federal procedural law.
Rio stands in support of the proposition that service can be effected under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3) by e-mail. Rule 4(f)(3) allows service upon a foreign individual or corporation by any means authorized by the court and not prohibited by international law. The appellate court cites Broadfoot v. Diaz, 245 B.R. 713, 719-20 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 2000), as prior authority for service by e-mail in upholding the district court's authorization of this method of service.
The plaintiff attempted service through a number of methods before asking the district court to grant an emergency order to allow it to serve the defendant by methods other than those spelled out in Rule 4(f). The appellate court held that the plaintiff was not required to exhaust all of the methods expressed in Rule 4(f) before asking the court to allow additional methods. The plaintiff only needed to show that it was unable to serve a defendant who was attempting to evade service. Service by e-mail was proper, because it was "[R]easonably calculated to apprise [the defendant] of the pendency of the action and afford it an opportunity to respond." In fact, e-mail was the only method of direct communication made available by the defendant.
The court continued on to deny the defendant's motion for dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction. The court relied on Panavision v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316 (9th Cir. 1998), in holding that the defendant purposefully availed itself of the laws of the forum state, the claims arise out of the activities directed at the forum state, and jurisdiction over the defendant comports with notions of substantial fair play and justice.
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