How Can I Sue Someone Out-of-State Who Owes Me Money?

Full Question:

I own a trucking & brokerage company in Georgia. I brokered some loads for an LLC in Miami Fl. I have $6511 worth of outstanding invoices. I can't afford to spend alot money on attempts to collect from him. is there an inexpensive way that I could legally collect this debt and with me in Ga and him in florida, if i wanted to file legal action where would i do that?
02/18/2011   |   Category: Venue   |   State: Georgia   |   #24251

Answer:

Venue is the local area in which a court, that has jurisdiction, may try a case. Jurisdiction is the geographical area within which a court has the right and power to operate. A court system may have jurisdiction to take a case in a wide geographical area, but the proper venue for the case may be one place within that area for the convenience of the parties. Jurisdiction is subject to fixed rules; however, venue is often left to the discretion of the judge.

Venue is the legally proper or most convenient place where a particular case should be filed or handled. Every state has rules determining the proper venue for different types of lawsuits. Normally, the venue in a criminal case is the judicial district or county where the crime was committed. The state, county or district in which a lawsuit is filed or a hearing or trial in that action is conducted is called the forum. For various reasons either party to a lawsuit or prosecution may move (ask) for a change of venue, which is up to the discretion of a judge in the court where the case or prosecution was originally filed. Reasons for such a request may include a clause in a contract stating that any action must be brought in a certain other venue, or pretrial publicity may be claimed to have tainted the potential jurors in that venue from rendering an impartial judgment. Difficulty in obtaining competent representation is generally not a reason to support a change of venue.

Where to file will depend on where defendant resides or conducts business, and the dollar limit of the local small claims court. Venue is typically proper where the defendant resides, conducts business, where a contract is formed, where an accident occurs, or where the contract provides for the case to be brought. Typically, a defendant needs to have minimum contacts with the forum to pass due process requirements for being served with a complaint. Due process requires it to be reasonably foreseeable that a person would be called to defend in that court.

In personam jurisdiction is obtained when the respondent/ defendant is properly served with a summons and complaint either by certified mail, by personal service, or by publication (only rarely used and only when the address of the respondent/defendant is unknown). An out-of-state defendant may be served with the complaint under a state's long-arm statute if the requirements for exercising long arm jurisdiction and due process requirements are met. If the defendant is out of state, due process requires that they must be shown to have contacts in the forum state of such a nature that they could reasonably foresee being sued in that state. Whether minimum contacts exist so that the court has personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant is a determination made based upon the facts and circumstances in each case. Minimum contacts can be established by consent where a party signs a contract with a forum selection clause, agreeing to litigate in a specified forum. If minimum contacts don't exist, the defendant must be sued in the state where they reside or regularly conduct business.

In order to serve a defendant with the state's long arm statute, the defendant must have minimum contacts with the state. Minimum contacts can consist of either some type of systematic and continuous contact with the forum ("general jurisdiction"), or isolated or occasional contacts purposefully directed toward the forum ("specific jurisdiction"). A single contact can suffice to establish personal jurisdiction, but where jurisdiction is based on a single contact, the nature and quality of the contact is determinative. The principal test of foreseeability in a due process analysis "is that the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum state are such that he should reasonably anticipate the possibility of defending a suit in the forum. Ownership of property in the state may satisfy this requirement.

If you wish to use the legal system to resolve your dispute, you may want to review the following general information regarding contract law and breach of contract actions:

Contracts are agreements that are legally enforceable. A contract is an agreement between two parties that creates an obligation to do or refrain from doing a particular thing. The purpose of a contract is to establish the terms of the agreement by which the parties have fixed their rights and duties. An oral contract is an agreement made with spoken words and either no writing or only partially written. An oral contract may generally be enforced the same as a written agreement. However, it is much more difficult with an oral contract to prove its existence or the terms. Oral contracts also usually have a shorter time period within which a person seeking to enforce their contract right must sue. A written contract generally provides a longer time to sue than for breach of an oral contract. Contracts are mainly governed by state statutory and common (judge-made) law and private law. Private law generally refers to the terms of the agreement between the parties, as parties have freedom to override many state law requirements regarding formalities of contracts. Each state has developed its own common law of contracts, which consists of a body of jurisprudence developed over time by trial and appellate courts on a case-by-case basis.

An unjustifiable failure to perform all or some part of a contractual duty is a breach of contract. A legal action for breach of contract arises when at least one party's performance does not live up to the terms of the contract and causes the other party to suffer economic damage or other types of measurable injury. A lawsuit for breach of contract is a civil action and the remedies awarded are designed to place the injured party in the position they would be in if not for the breach. Remedies for contractual breaches are not designed to punish the breaching party. The five basic remedies for breach of contract include the following: money damages, restitution, rescission, reformation, and specific performance. A money damage award includes a sum of money that is given as compensation for financial losses caused by a breach of contract. Parties injured by a breach are entitled to the benefit of the bargain they entered, or the net gain that would have accrued but for the breach. The type of breach governs the extent of damages that may be recovered.

Restitution is a remedy designed to restore the injured party to the position occupied prior to the formation of the contract. Parties seeking restitution may not request to be compensated for lost profits or other earnings caused by a breach. Instead, restitution aims at returning to the plaintiff any money or property given to the defendant under the contract. Plaintiffs typically seek restitution when contracts they have entered are voided by courts due to a defendant's incompetence or incapacity.

Rescission is the name for the remedy that terminates the contractual duties of both parties, while reformation is the name for the remedy that allows courts to change the substance of a contract to correct inequities that were suffered. In order to have a rescission, both parties to the contract must be placed in the position they occupied before the contract was made. Courts have held that a party may rescind a contract for fraud, incapacity, duress, undue influence, material breach in performance of a promise, or mistake, among other grounds.

Specific performance is an equitable remedy that compels one party to perform, as nearly as practicable, his or her duties specified by the contract. Specific performance is available only when money damages are inadequate to compensate the plaintiff for the breach.

Promissory estoppel is a term used in contract law that applies where, although there may not otherwise be an enforceable contract, because one party has relied on the promise of the other, it would be unfair not to enforce the agreement. Promissory estoppel arises from a promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forebearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee and which does induce such action or forebearance in binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise. Detrimental reliance is a term commonly used to force another to perform their obligations under a contract, using the theory of promissory estoppel. Promissory estoppel may apply when a promise was made; reliance on the promise was reasonable or foreseeable; there was actual and reasonable reliance on the promise; the reliance was detrimental; and injustice can only be prevented by enforcing the promise. Detrimental reliance must be shown to involve reliance that is reasonable, which is a determination made on an individual case-by-case basis, taking all factors into consideration. Detrimental means that some type of harm is suffered.

Reasonable reliance is usually referred to as a theory of recovery in contract law. It was what a prudent person might believe and act upon based on something told by another. Sometimes a person acts in reliance on the promise of a profit or other benefit, only to learn that the statements or promises were either incorrect or were exaggerated. The one who acted to their detriment in reasonable reliance may recover damages for the costs of his/her actions or demand performance. Reasonable reliance connotes the use of the standard of an ordinary and average person.