Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In Rem

Buchanan v. Soto, No. D065652 (D4d1 Nov. 6, 2015)

Wife, facing a collections action, transferred some marital property to Husband’s separate ownership. Plaintiff won the collection case and then sued Husband and Wife for fraudulent conveyance. She had some trouble serving Husband, who had allegedly been deported to Mexico before the case was filed. Wife unconvincingly claimed not to know Husband’s address there. After several attempts to serve Husband at the pre-deportation residence, the court permitted service by publication. Husband defaulted and Plaintiff ultimately won a judgement against both Wife and (defaulted) Husband, with the court finding that the property had been fraudulently transferred by Wife to avoid collections.

Several months later, Husband moved for relief from default and to quash service for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper service. The court denied the motions and Husband appealed.

So far as jurisdiction goes, Husband owned property in California and the circumstances of his coming into its ownership was the subject of the action. That generally meets the first two prongs—personal availment and relatedness— of the California test for personal jurisdiction. As far as the third (reasonableness) prong goes, the court doesn’t buy that Defendant’s deportation and inability to come to the U.S. made it unreasonable to hail him into court here. Nothing stopped him from hiring a U.S. lawyer to protect his interests. Indeed, in seeking the relief at issue on this appeal, he did just that.

As to service, the key issue is whether Plaintiff needed to avail herself of the Hague Convention process to serve Husband in Mexico. A party is not required to resort to Hague service, however, when despite the plaintiff’s diligence, the defendant’s address cannot be ascertained. Here, Wife—who the evidence showed to be in regular phone contact with Husband—said she did not know where Husband currently lived. And even on his motion, Husband continued to act shady and avoid giving a current Mexican address. Under the circumstances, the court found that Plaintiff’s diligence was reasonable, so Hague service would not be required. Publication was enough.


No comments:

Post a Comment