Can I sue a debt collector over false information which has affected my credit?

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Can I sue a debt collector over false information which has affected my credit?

The debt collectors somehow got my information mixed up with another person. Thus, all of his tickets are coming into my credit history. This affects my credit history and caused a lot of problem for me. They wouldn’t remove it until I contacted court. Can I sue them? I am located in one state but the debt collector is located in another.

Asked on May 21, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the debt collector for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care in this case that a reasonable debt collector would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm). 

In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care), actual cause, proximate cause, and damages.

Actual cause means but for the debt collector entering another person's information in your name, would your credit history have been adversely affected?  If the answer is no, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforeseeable, intervening acts which would relieve the debt collector of liability?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit for negligence.

A lawsuit can be filed where the plaintiff resides or where the defendant resides or where the claim arose.  However, if you file in Small Claims Court in CA, the defendant has to be served in CA except in cases involving auto accidents or property disputes where the defendant in a Small Claims Court case in CA can be served in another state.  If you file your case in Superior Court in CA, you won't be subject to that restriction and the defendant can be served in another state.  The filing fee in Superior Court is expensive.  If that is a problem, you can file your case in Small Claims Court in the debt collector's state and have the debt collector served there.  Another possibility if you want to file in CA in Small Claims Court is that if the debt collector is doing  business in CA, the debt collector should have an agent for service of process in CA and you could serve that agent.  You can find out who the agent for service of process is in CA by contacting the Secretary of State's office in CA.


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