What can I do if I was sued in a state in which I do not reside and do not do business in?

I never received papers from the court. I only received a certified letter from the person showing receipt of filing with the “Prothonotary” (had never even heard of that before). Then I received notice from the post office of certified mail from the person, not the court; I never got to pick up. Now I just got a letter from the Prothonotary informing me of a default injunction against me (all this happened in about 1-2 months). I believe I was not properly served. Second, my business does not meet the requirements the Supreme Court has established to determine jurisdiction over me from another state. Where do I find those clauses so I can cite them in my response?

Asked on July 21, 2015 under Business Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

"Prothonotary" is an out-of-date terms for a chief clerk--only PA and DE still use that term, so if you received the letter from any other court, it is almost certainly a scam. In fact, generally speaking, this is likely a scam: 1) if you do not reside in a state or do business there, there would be no grounds for any legal action against you; 2) if they have your address, you could have served--but you weren't, suggested there was no proper court process. First and easiest thing to do is to contact the court system in the state in which you were alleged sued, discuss what you received (and fax/scan them a copy if they want), and ask about whether this is legitimate or not. Odds are strongly that it is not legitimate, in which case further ask the clerk whom to file a complaint or report with (it's probably your local police, but no harm in asking the clerk if there is anyone else).)

You would contact the clerk of the court for the county in which the alleged action was taken against you; or if there is no indication of county (which further suggests a scam; the vast majority of legal actions originate in county courts), try contacting initally the state supreme court clerk's office and seeing if they can help or direct you.

If against all expectations this is legitimate, explain that you were never served; ask about how to get a copy of the court papers; then provide the information and papers to an attorney.

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