Can a foreign creditor sue and obtain a judgment against a US citizen?

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Can a foreign creditor sue and obtain a judgment against a US citizen?

My son was in college for a semester abroad and was rescued by helicopter in Switzerland by the independently funded REGA rescue organization. He is insolvent at this time, has student loans, and is still in college (21 years old). He received a litigation notice from a collection agency representing Rega for the defaulted payment. They will file a suit to recover the balance through a representative company. Since he does not have the money to pay the money back at this time, will they be able to pursue him over out-of country matters? Can they force payment?

Asked on December 22, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, a foreign creditor can force payment.  They can sue in their own country and "domesticate" a foreign judgment or they can bring suit in the US (if proper jurisdiction can be established).  Either way, your son will be on the hook financially if his creditor wins the case and obtains a judgment.

Since he does not currently have any job or assets, there is little that they can do to him now.  However, judgments are good in MA for 20 years, so down the line this creditor can seize any non-exempt assets that your son has at that time, as well as garnish his wages, etc.  Again, right now there really isn't too much that they can do other than possibly make a negative notation on his credit report.

Note:  Depending on the amount of the debt owed, this creditor may just be threatening legal action.  The fact is that enforcing a foreign judgment costs money and it may well not be worth it for them to to pursue the claim.


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