Failure to Attest to Reliability of Chinese to English Translation Leads to Dismissal
Accuracy and reliability of Chinese to English document translations submitted as evidence is paramount in civil litigation. As the pandemic continues, a wide variety of closely related cases have entered the courts. A foreign document translation case, set in the Southern District Court of Ohio, involving mask fraud highlights a few key points to remember about the reliability of a foreign document translation.
In the case 3M Co. v. Premium Contractor Sol. 3:20-cv-443 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 24, 2021) the third-party Defendants, the Lawrence Group, questioned the reliability of an allegedly accurate translation of text messages from Chinese to English. The cause for question arose from the particular way the translator, a Chinese businessman, also the Plaintiff in the case, sought to attest to the accuracy of the translation. He did this by attaching a statement to the translation indicating merely that the translation was “an accurate copy”.
Chinese to English Translation Case at First Glance
It might seem at first glance that the underlying basis for this case – a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction over third-party Defendants – has little to do with Chinese to English document translation. In actuality, the entire case turned specifically on the reliability of the translation Plaintiff submitted.
The Plaintiff initially alleged in its complaint that it had lost over $2 million because Defendants and third-party Defendants orchestrated the sale of products falsely certified as genuine 3M N95 masks. In response, the third-party Defendants denied ever negotiating with or contracting with the other parties to the lawsuit or selling any masks whatsoever. In addition, they filed a motion to dismiss based on the court’s lack of personal jurisdiction over them.
In response to the motion, Plaintiff submitted an allegedly accurate copy of an English translation of the Chinese text messages sent between Plaintiff and the third-party Defendants, in an attempt to show the two had entered into commerce together in order to negotiate the sale of the masks.
Laws Concerning Translation Reliability
Here, it is important to note that although laws concerning the reliability of a foreign document translation can vary, there are a few commonalities across states, mainly concerning the translator’s declaration, also known as Certificate of Accuracy, or translator’s affidavit that must be attached to them.
Most courts require that a translation be accompanied by Translator’s affidavit, Translator’s declaration, or a Certificate of Accuracy. This statement must include the name of the translator, information about their ability to produce accurate translations and a statement certifying that the translation is true and correct.
It goes without saying that ensuring a document translation declaration contains every detail in order is paramount. In the case here, the Plaintiff failed to do so, and it played an influential role in the court’s decision for the entire case.
The Court Rules in Favor of Third-Party Defendants
Ultimately, the court determined the Plaintiff’s translations were unreliable because the Plaintiff failed to properly state the translations were made by a competent translator. The Chinese businessman Plaintiff, who had made the translations himself, merely stated in his declaration the translations were “an accurate copy”. This was not enough to convince the court.
Of course, the third-party Defendants objected to the Plaintiff’s declaration. Specifically, they argued the translations were uncertified and prepared by the owner of the claimant company itself. Thus, they should not be considered in the personal jurisdiction decision.
The court agreed, pointing out that although the declarations were attached to the text messages, they failed to state that the Chinese to English translation itself was true and accurate. The court also noted that Plaintiff’s owner, as author of the translation, never made an attempt to certify that he himself is a translator or is otherwise qualified to make the translation.
Consequently, the court decided in favor of the third-party Defendant’s motion to dismiss specifically because Plaintiff could not and did not accurately attest to the reliability of the foreign document translation at the center of the case.
Foreign Document Translations Must Be Accurate and Reliable
It follows that any party to a lawsuit involving a foreign document translation should secure the proper certified translation at the outset of the case. The translator must be a competent one, and even though there are few laws that address conflicts of interest in relation to foreign document translation, it’s probably not a good idea for either party to make their translations themselves.
This case presents a valuable lesson. Legal parties to a suit must declare a foreign document translation is reliable and created by a competent translator – two key points to note when preparing any case involving foreign document translation so be submitted as evidence.
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