How can Holloways sue Van Der Sloot?

So various media outlets have been reporting for a while that the mother of Natalee Holloway is going to try to sue Joran Van Der Sloot in New York. I understand that while Joran was in NYC for an interview he was served with papers, but assuming he returns to Aruba exactly what can they do to him?

As usual, there are some followup articles that explain completely useless things like that if “neither the plaintiff nor the defendant live in the county that the suit is filed in then blah blah blah.”

County schmounty…the guy isn’t even a US citizen and he doesn’t live in the US. So what recourse to people have if they want to sue somebody in civil court in a different country. I mean, what’s stopping random people that I happened to meet the last time I was in, say, Poland, just suing me and making some claim.

I’m not under the impression that extradition applies to civil cases…so what exactly are these people going to accomplish with this lawsuit?

Any lawyer types want to shed some light on this?

This is way outside my area of expertise, since it’s civil law, but here are a couple things that occurred to me:

Once you serve him, the lawsuit can go forward whether he’s around or not. If he doesn’t respond to the suit, you get a default judgment in your favor. Once you have that judgment, you can apply it against any assets he happens to have in the US or develops in the US in the future. Also, I believe some countries have treaties or other agreements that allow transnational enforcement of judgments, so maybe a court in Holland, the Netherlands, or Aruba (wherever his assets are) would enforce a US money judgment.

He was in America. Your physical presence in a state confers Personal Jurisdiction over you to the courts of that state.

I might very well be wrong (I’m certainly no lawyer, just a knowitall journo) but I think wrongful-death lawsuits is a very American invention. I’ve never heard of anybody over here being taken to civil court over a murder/wrongful-death - we expect the government to take care of these things and I’m pretty sure that the Dutch government would never enforce a US civil court judgment against a dutch national - especially if it was a default judgement passed out because he didn’t feel safe going to the States and defend himself.

I don’t know the case, he might very well be guilty and if American police put out a warrant for his arrest the dutch government would most likely comply (after the ambassadors people had a written statement from the prosecution stating that they wouldn’t seek the death penalty). But a civil suit? I don’t think so.