File Small Claims On Someone In A Different State?
March 2, 2009 6:50 AM   Subscribe

How do I file in small claims court against someone from another state? I am in MN, she is in WA. The MN state site for Small Claims says that the claim should be filed in the county of the defendant. Do I have to file in Seattle, or can I file in Minneapolis? We didn't sign a contract, but I have chat logs and emails of her saying she'd do work for me, then saying she'd refund my money after not doing that work. The whole experience has taken place over 7 months.

I paid someone to create a logo for a website. I didn't sign a contract, but do have our chat logs and a few emails we have sent. After paying her up front via PayPal, because she had agreed to a reduced rate, the designer stopped answering any of my emails and basically disappeared. She's since reappeared online and has sent me one email saying that she had made comps, but would refund my money because I ended up going with a different logo after she disappeared. That email was in Novemeber, and I haven't heard from her since.

I have tried contacting her via several email addresses, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Flickr. She updates several sites online regularly, so I know that she is out there and active. I have filed a complaint with the BBB, but she is self-employed and I don't know that it's done any good.
posted by chriswarren to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How much is at stake?
posted by craven_morhead at 7:15 AM on March 2, 2009

You should seek recourse through Paypal, if you haven't already gotten your money back. If you fulfilled the Paypal payment by credit card, go to your credit card company next.

I don't know anything about the jurisdiction of small claims courts, so I can't give any specific advice on the legal issues. Perhaps you can ask a clerk or public information officer associated with your small claims court. Call in. That said, what I've learned in my general legal education suggests that you might have trouble proceeding against this designer in your local small claims court and enforcing that judgment.

On the other hand, even if you can't (easily) legally compel her to pay you, you may be able to impress her with legal process and thereby convince her to pay you. Filing a lawsuit could be worth it just to show her that you mean business, even if you're not sure the suit could succeed.
posted by grobstein at 7:34 AM on March 2, 2009

Suing someone from out of state in a small claims court is likely to be a waste of money. You can certainly sue her in MN, but when you get a judgment, you'll have to go to/count on the laws of WA to get paid. Basically, you'll be shelling out lots of fees before you ever see any justice.

Do you even have a valid street address for the woman. You'll need that to even serve her with the lawsuit.

If you're serious about collecting the money-forget small claims and go to the district court. It's more expensive but will save lots of hassle later.
posted by quercus at 12:03 PM on March 2, 2009

Once I bought a bike online that never showed up. I was in MA and the seller was in CA. I filed a small claims case in MA, sent the paperwork to him certified mail. Apparently it was enough to scare him straight, because I got a money order refunding me overnighted the next day.

So, as others have pointed out, while you might have trouble actually enforcing the judgment, the mere threat of the suit could be enough to help you recover your money.
posted by dseaton at 12:12 PM on March 2, 2009

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