Following a recent High Court judgment, the Irish rules of court on service to another EU Member State have been amended.
The amendments follow on from the case of Grovit v Jansen. In that case, Binchy J set aside a judgment obtained in default of appearance against a Dutch defendant. One of the defendant’s grounds of complaint was that the proceedings had not been properly served on him.
The defendant based his service arguments around Article 14 of the Service Regulation. The Service Regulation applies in all EU Member States. It applies to the service of “judicial” and “extrajudicial” documents in “civil and commercial” matters subject to certain exclusions e.g. revenue matters. It does not apply where the address of the person to be served is unknown.
Article 14 states that:
“Each Member State shall be free to effect service of judicial documents directly by postal services on persons residing in another Member State by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt or equivalent.”
In Grovit, the plaintiff had served the proceedings on the defendant’s lawyers by registered post. One complaint raised by the defendant was that he was not properly served as Article 14 did not permit individuals to serve documents by registered post. Instead, this was reserved to the transmitting agencies of the Member States.
Binchy J accepted this argument, noting that this interpretation was consistent with the approach adopted in the UK. He said that to the extent that the Irish rules of court suggested otherwise, this was based on a mistaken interpretation of Article 14. The Irish rules of court have now been amended to address this error.
What service options remain open under the Service Regulation?
Plaintiffs now seeking to serve proceedings abroad should contact the appropriate Irish transmitting agent. This is the County Registrar for the area concerned. The documents for service, along with certain standard forms and any necessary translations should be sent to this court officer whose staff will then arrange for onward service. Service may also be carried out by diplomatic or consular agents.
In addition, any person interested in a judicial proceeding may effect direct service of judicial documents through the judicial officers, officials or other competent persons of the Member State addressed, where such direct service is permitted under the law of that Member State.