My daughter is being sued by State Farm Insurance in a subrogation claim. They are suing for the $225k they paid to their insured after my daughter's insurance limits were exceeded. The suit is filed in the State Court of Fulton County - Civil Division as it stemmed from an auto accident in Fulton County. My daughter no longer resides in Georgia and was served process in NC. My question is this:
What does the State Court of Fulton County have at their disposal vis-a-vis enforcement/collection of a judgement rendered in Atlanta against a non-resident defendant. I should also mention my daughter has no assets and is waiting to hear back on an application for subsidized housing.
Does the Court have to have personal jurisdiction over her in a case like this?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Since the accident happened in Fulton County and she apparently formerly lived in Georgia, there appears to be no question as to jurisidiction.
She needs to see a lawyer. First of all, if and when she loses, she carries that judgment for years if not decades. That means her future paychecks and bank accounts and assets can be seized. Also, many states will suspend a license, for life, for an unpaid judgment (Georgia does) if the judgment holder requests.
Likely, her smart move is to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Unless the accident is from a DUI or deliberate act, the whole debt is probably dischargeable. Instead of focusing on a defense, help her with seeing a Bankruptcy lawyer. That may be a cheap ending to an expensive case.
I think the import of your question is: does she have to defend the case in Fulton County GA? If she was personally served, even in NC, I would recommend that the case be defended. If not, the case will "go into default" and a judgment entered against her in Georgia for the full amount. Next step--after the judgement is obtained State Farm will send the case to a "collection" lawyer in NC who will engage in post-judgment discovery including sending written interrogatories and setting a post-judgment deposition by subpoena. If your daughter doesn't co-operate the lawyer in NC can seek an order compelling her to, and if she still doesn't cooperate with this post-judgment activity, she can be sent to jail for contempt until she does. They will find out where her bank accounts are and where she works and will file garnishments in both places to get money from them to satisfy her judgment. Also, most states (Georgia for sure--I don't know about NC) give the judgment creditor in a car wreck the right to have the defendant's driver's license revoked and tags taken off the car until the judgment is satisfied. How to beat this: (1) Defend the case in State Court of Fulton and win (I don't know the facts--maybe she wasn't at fault in the wreck?) You'll have to hire an attorney in Georgia to do that. (2) File for bankruptcy. (3) Make a deal. Enter into a payment plan or beg/borrow enough money to negotiate a lump sum settlement. State Farm isn't crazy. That company understands that something is better than nothing and if your daughter goes the bankruptcy route State Farm will get nothing.