Enforcing Foreign Money Judgments in New York - The Importance of Personal Jurisdiction and Meaningful Notice

New York has traditionally been a generous forum in which to enforce judgments for money damages rendered by foreign courts. See, e.g., John Galliano, S.A. v. Stallion, Inc., 15 N.Y.3d 75, 79-80, 904 N.Y.S.2d 683 (2010); CIBC Mellon Trust Co. v. Mora Hotel Corp., 100 N.Y.2d, 215, 221, 762 N.Y.S.2d 5 (2003).  In accordance with that tradition, the state has adopted the Uniform Foreign Country Money-Judgments Recognition Act, which is codified as Article 53 of the CPLR.  (Id.) 

Article 53 was designed, inter alia, “to promote the efficient enforcement of New York judgments abroad by assuring foreign jurisdictions that their judgments would receive streamlined enforcement here.”  CIBC Mellon Trust Co., supra.  The Act applies “to any foreign country judgment which is final, conclusive and enforceable.”  See N.Y.C.P.L.R. 5302; see also, John Galliano, S.A., supra; CIBC Mellon Trust Co., supra.     

Generally, a foreign money judgment is to be recognized in New York under Article 53 unless a ground for non-recognition under CPLR 5304 exists.  See John Galliano, S.A., 15 N.Y.3d at 80.  Grounds for non-recognition include (a) a lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant by the foreign court (see CPLR 5304(a)(2)) and (b) a defendant's failure to receive “notice of the proceedings in sufficient time to enable him to defend” (CPLR 5304(b)(2)).  (Id.) 

In John Galliano, S.A., the New York Court of Appeals addressed the foreign judgment debtor's alleged absence of notice, holding, inter alia, as follows: “[If] recognition of a foreign money judgment were sought in New York and the defendant had received no meaningful notice of the foreign proceeding, that lack of notice would serve as a legitimate basis for not enforcing the judgment in our state, as the entry of such a judgment would not comport with our conception of personal jurisdiction or our notion of fairness”.

The principles articulated by the Court of Appeals in John Galliano, S.A., remain sound and serve as a meaningful check on abusive foreign creditors seeking to enforce foreign money judgments, which may or may not be legitimate, upon unsuspecting alleged debtors in New York.