Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in California

Which answer is correct? #1 or #2.

Hello, I am a freelance editor living in San Diego, CA. The person I do work for lives in Washington State. She owes me $500 and will not pay. We have both verbal agreement and written emails from her to me requesting to do work, which I did. Can I file a small court claim in San Diego? What are my options? Thank you!

Replies from Lawguru:

1. You can file a small claims case in San Diego. If you win, you probably will have to try to collect against assets in WA state (i.e. bank account, real property), unless the person has assets in California. So you will have to domesticate your judgment in Washington and then pursue collection. Or, you can file a small claims action in Washington and proceed to collection. You'll have to make a business decision about whether it's worth it either way. Robert C.

2. Unless defendant is served within the state, you cannot sue in small claims an out of state defendant. Joe. S

Asked on 6/16/13, 11:51 am

4 Answers from Attorneys

Robert F. Cohen Law Office of Robert F. Cohen

It looks like Joe S. is correct, after all. Take a look at Code of Civil Procedure section 116.340 which requires service on a defendant in-state only, except that:

f) The owner of record of real property in California who resides in another state and who has no lawfully designated agent in California for service of process may be served by any of the methods described in this section if the claim relates to that property.

(g) A nonresident owner or operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident within this state may be served pursuant to the provisions on constructive service in Sections 17450 to 17461, inclusive, of the Vehicle Code without regard to whether the defendant was a nonresident at the time of the accident or when the claim was filed. Service shall be made by serving both the Director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the defendant, and may be made by any of the methods authorized by this chapter or by registered mail as authorized by Section 17454 or 17455 of the Vehicle Code.

Since your action is one for failing to pay, you would have to bring a small claims case in Washington State. My apologies. It's been a while since I read the Small Claims Act.

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Answered on 6/16/13, 5:00 pm

John Laurie Gertz and Laurie

On a more practical note unless you are acting on principal the time, effort and expense in collecting this 500.00 may not be worth it.

This gratuitous response does not create an attorney client relationship. The advice provided herein is generic, may not apply to your circumstances and is not to be relied upon in your actions. An attorney client relationship is created only upon execution of an engagement letter or retainer agreement hiring me or my firm..

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Answered on 6/16/13, 8:45 pm
Scott Jordan Dunning Law Firm

I agree with the answer provided by Joe S.

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Answered on 6/17/13, 10:34 am
Kelvin Green The Law Office of Kelvin Green

You may not be able to file in CA as indicated but you may be able to file in WA as the other answer posted... See a WA attorney for assistance..

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Answered on 6/17/13, 7:54 pm

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