Lessons Learned from a Date Discrepancy in Apostilled Court Documents

Disputing the Accuracy of Apostilled Legal Documents

The accuracy of certified legal document translation of Apostille document along with the accuracy of the Apostille certificate attached to the legal document accompanied by the certified translation plays an important role in the practice of law. A recent copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit highlighted the importance of ensuring accuracy in apostilled legal documents.

The plaintiff artist KAWS filed suit against defendants in Singapore for selling counterfeit versions of his works. When served with the complaint in Singapore, the defendants challenged the validity of service based on a date discrepancy between the affidavit of service and the attached apostilled certificate. While the error ultimately did not defeat service, the case illustrates that attorneys should take care to avoid even minor mistakes in authenticated documents.

The facts of the case involve the plaintiff artist KAWS, famous for his sculptures, paintings, and collectible figurines. KAWS sued Singapore-based defendants for selling counterfeit versions of his original works online. To serve the defendants, the plaintiffs personally served the individual Singapore defendant at his residential address in Singapore. The affidavit of service stated it was signed on January 12, 2022. However, the attached apostilled notary certificate incorrectly listed the date as December 12, 2021. Seizing on this discrepancy, the Singapore defendants moved to dismiss for improper service under FRCP Rule 4.

The key legal issue was whether the date inconsistency in the apostilled document was enough to invalidate service of process. The general rule is that technical errors do not defeat service unless they cause material prejudice or reflect disregard of the procedural rules. Here, the plaintiffs submitted affidavits from the process server and notary stating the December 12 date was merely a clerical error. The court agreed, finding no evidence of prejudice or violation of Rule 4. With the supplemental affidavits, the court found the plaintiff made a prima facie case that the affidavit was in fact signed on the later January date. Since the error did not impact the defendants’ rights or contravene the rules, the motion to dismiss for insufficient service was denied.

This case provides useful lessons for attorneys dealing with apostilled documents, even where a technical defect does not actually invalidate the legal proceedings. While the courts may be lenient on minor discrepancies, lawyers should still take diligent steps to ensure dates and other information are accurate in authenticated documents. Paying for careful notary services avoids embarrassing and potentially costly mistakes. Lawyers should keep in mind that accurate legal documents promote confidence in the judicial process.

In conclusion, this case shows that flaws in authenticated documents may not be fatal but can still undermine credibility. For internationally served legal processes, it is worth investing the time and resources to get the details right, even if the courts occasionally excuse defects. Avoiding errors in apostilled documents should be the goal, rather than relying on the courts to overlook them.

(Donnelly v Anand, 2022 US Dist LEXIS 171719 [SDNY Sep. 22, 2022, No. 21-cv-9562 (PKC)])

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