In Barot v. Embassy of Republic of Zambia, No. CV 13-0451 (ABJ), 2014 WL 2443868 (D.D.C. June 2, 2014) – a case that I have discussed before – the court reaffirmed that strict compliance under section 1608(a) requires careful adherence to all of the service requirements.
The plaintiff in Barot argued that sending service documents to the Zambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs complied with section 1608(a)(3)’s requirement that the documents be sent to “the head of the ministry of foreign affairs of the foreign state concerned.” 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a)(3). The court disagreed, finding the service defective because “[t]he plain language of the statute requires that the service package be addressed to the head of the ministry, or the minister of foreign affairs, not to the ministry in general.” Barot, 2014 WL 2443868, at *2. The district court also rejected plaintiff’s argument that “no other court has required ‘head of’ or the name of the minister before there is proper service under section 1608(a)(3),” holding that such a contention “ignores the plain language of that section and . . . overlooks the fact that this issue has not been presented to a court before.” Id. at *3.
Barot should serve as a reminder to plaintiffs that courts will not excuse even relatively minor defects in service on a foreign state under section 1608(a). To the extent that a plaintiff is uncertain about service requirements under section 1608(a), the plaintiff should seek legal counsel to help ensure that service is perfected.