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Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) VII v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co., Ltd.

Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Three

June 1, 2018, Opinion Filed

B272170

Opinion

 [*120] 

 [**816]  EDMON, P. J.—This appeal concerns an aborted international business deal between Changzhou SinoType Technology Co., Ltd. (SinoType), a Chinese company, and Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) VII (Rockefeller Asia), an American investment  [**817]  partnership. When the relationship between the two entities soured, Rockefeller Asia pursued contractual arbitration against SinoType in Los Angeles. SinoType did not appear or participate in the arbitration proceeding, and the arbitrator entered a default award in excess of $414 million against it. The award was confirmed and judgment entered, again at a proceeding in which SinoType did not participate.

Approximately 15 months later, SinoType moved to set aside the judgment [***2]  on the grounds that it had never entered into a binding contract with Rockefeller Asia, had not agreed to contractual arbitration, and had not been served with the summons and petition to confirm the arbitration award in the manner required by the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, Nov. 15, 1965, 20 U.S.T. 361, T.I.A.S. No. 6638 (hereafter, Hague Service Convention or Convention). The trial court acknowledged that the service of the summons and petition had not complied with the Hague Service Convention, but concluded that the parties had privately agreed to accept service by mail. The court therefore denied the motion to set aside the judgment.

We reverse. As we discuss, the Hague Service Convention does not permit Chinese citizens to be served by mail, nor does it allow parties to set their own terms of service by contract. SinoType therefore was never validly served with process. As a result, “no personal jurisdiction by the court [was] obtained and the resulting judgment [is] void as violating fundamental due process.” (County of San Diego v. Gorham (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 1215, 1227 [113 Cal. Rptr. 3d 147].) The trial court therefore erred in denying the motion to set aside the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL [***3]  BACKGROUND

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24 Cal. App. 5th 115 *; 233 Cal. Rptr. 3d 814 **; 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 515 ***; 2018 WL 2455092

ROCKEFELLER TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENTS (ASIA) VII, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CHANGZHOU SINOTYPE TECHNOLOGY CO., LTD., Defendant and Appellant.

Notice: THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA GRANTED REVIEW IN THIS MATTER (see Cal. Rules of Court, rules 8.1105(e)(1)(B), 8.1115(e)) September 26, 2018, S249923.

Subsequent History: Time for Granting or Denying Review Extended Rockefeller Technology Investments v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2018 Cal. LEXIS 6680 (Cal., Aug. 31, 2018)

Review granted by Rockefeller Technology Investments v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 238 Cal. Rptr. 3d 118, 426 P.3d 303, 2018 Cal. LEXIS 7239 (Cal., Sept. 26, 2018)

Request granted Rockefeller Technology Investments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2018 Cal. LEXIS 8187 (Cal., Oct. 17, 2018)

Request granted Rockefeller Technology Investments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2018 Cal. LEXIS 9947 (Cal., Dec. 20, 2018)

Request granted Rockefeller Technology Investments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 767 (Cal., Jan. 17, 2019)

Request granted Rockefeller Technology Investments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 2839 (Cal., Apr. 12, 2019)

Request granted Asia Rockefeller Technology Invsestments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology, Co., Ltd., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 4084 (Cal., June 13, 2019)

Request granted Rockefeller Technology Invsestments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 6907 (Cal., Sept. 12, 2019)

Request granted Rockefeller Technology Investments VII v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 6906 (Cal., Sept. 12, 2019)

Request denied by Rockefeller Technology Investments v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co., Ltd., 2019 Cal. LEXIS 9704 (Cal., Dec. 24, 2019)

Reversed by, Remanded by Rockefeller Tech. Invs. Asia Vii v. Changzhou Sinotype Tech. Co., 2020 Cal. LEXIS 2091 (Cal., Apr. 2, 2020)

Prior History:  [***1] APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BS149995, Randolph Hammock, Judge.

Disposition: Reversed and remanded with directions.

CORE TERMS

Convention, parties, summons, void, arbitration, trial court, documents, mail service, italics, service of process, arbitration award, properly serve, deny a motion, binding, notice, mail, personal jurisdiction, petition to confirm, percent interest, void judgment, contracting, provisions, channels, damages, validly, treaty, terms, service requirement, void on its face, new company

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Vacation of Judgments, International Law, Treaty Interpretation, Particular Treaties, Hague Convention, Service of Process, Methods of Service, Foreign Service, Constitutional Law, Supremacy Clause, Federal Preemption, Treaty Interpretation, Jurisdiction, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, In Personam Actions, Pleading & Practice, Pleadings, Service of Process, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Void Judgments