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

UPDATED: May 21, 2012

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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


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

Answered 10 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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