I sold my home in PA and moved to CA. The buyer of my home in PA is suing me for $3,000+, saying that I should pay because the basement received water during the winter thaw. I disclosed properly-I never had any water accumulate in the basement while I lived there. I received a letter from the buyer's lawyer and when I contacted a lawyer in PA, he told me I could not be sued in PA because I no longer live there. The other day I received a notice that I have to appear in District Magistrate's court in PA because the buyer filed a civil suit against me. Can he do that and what do I do from all the way across the country?
3 Answers from Attorneys
Re: Civil Suit
You need a Pennsylvania lawyer to give you the Pennsylvania law on this matter.
In law school they do teach very general law, because most of our legal system is based on that of old English common law, going back to the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D. Under the old English common law, you would have been liable for failure to disclose a hidden defect.
Assuming you did not know of a water problem in the basement, it could not have been a hidden defect. Again, you need to have a Pa. lawyer address this issue.
As to procedure, it is incumbent upon you to not only contact a Pa. lawyer, but make sure that you have this matter handled properly, or a judgment could be issued against you.
My understanding of the Magistrate system is that you would be looking at criminal charges in a Magistrate's court, and not civil charges. If that is correct, you need to defend yourself, because you may otherwise be subject to a bench warrant.
I do know some Philadelphia attorneys, and would be glad to put you in touch with one, but you will have to make your own fee arrangements. Not everyone will dispense free advice, such as those of us who volunteer on the Law Guru site.
If you need more from me, please e-mail or call my office.
Re: Civil Suit
You can indeed be sued in Pennsylvania as that is where the real estate in question is located.
You can appear by attorney in Pennsylvania. Its even possible to testify by phone.
You best bet is to retain an attorney in Pennsylvania.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me. The initial consultation is free.
Re: Civil Suit
Here's another California lawyer chiming in.
When you talk to a Pennsylvania lawyer, I think one of the first issues you need to discuss is whether or not you have been validly served.
I don't know, but I'm inclined to believe service by mail alone is not sufficient to oblige you to appear; it may be necessary for the plaintiff to arrange to have the papers served on you in person by a sheriff or process server.
Also, as to whether this is a civil or criminal proceeding, I'm going to guess that it is civil and not criminal despite the use of the term "Magistrate" in the court's name. I think this is a kind of generic lower-level court name in several eastern states and does not give a clue as to the type of case, except perhaps as to the relatively law amount of damages sought.