What court system is proper to use when suing someone who has moved out of state?

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What court system is proper to use when suing someone who has moved out of state?

In this case, the defendant signed a year-long residential rental agreement, and has not paid a penny, and moved out without notice. The residence and contract were in CA, and the defendant has since moved to WA. The original case was filed in CA small claims court, in the county which the residence is in. During the first court date, the judge stated that he felt because the court papers were personally served to the defendant outside of CA, that the CA small claims court may not be the appropriate court. The judge “would not give legal advice” however.

Asked on May 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The real point the Judge was making is that he needed to insure that the defendant was properly served in the action  - known as obtaining jurisdiction over the person - or he could not render a decision involving him.  It is my under standing that in small claims you can not servea party that resides out of state but for two exceptions:

  • A non-resident defendant who owns real property in California — if the defendant has no agent for service of process and the claim relates to that property. (The non-resident defendant may send a representative or submit an affidavit to defend against the claim.)
  • A non-resident defendant who owned or operated a motor vehicle involved in an accident on a California highway — if service of process is made on both the defendant and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Some courts allow the non-resident driver to send a representative (but not an attorney), or submit an affidavit or declaration explaining that person's side of the case, or appear at the hearing by telephone. To determine the court's policy and practice, contact a small claims adviser in the county where the suit has been filed.

 The Court system in California is really good with self help.  Here is a link that will help you get started.  What you need to be aware of is that a rental agreement is like an installment contract meaning that each month a new amount of money is due and you can not sue someone before they default on the payment (this is a generality; if you deem the contract breached you may be able to sue on the whole).  If you have waited the length of the agrement then you can sue on the whole amount.  Good luck.

http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp.htm


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