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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2009

    Default Small Claims Court California - Foreign Defendant

    My question involves small claims court in the state of: California

    I recently had a contract with a person to perform some services for them. They were unhappy with the work, and opted to terminate the contract. Under the agreed terms, if they were the ones to cancel the contract, they would pay for the services in full. The person is now refusing to pay, despite my informing them that if they do not, I will be forced to take matters to court.

    The terms of the contract state that it is governed by the state of California, but the other party now resides in Canada. The small claims advisor informed me that the defendant must be served within the state, but had no advice for me as to how to move forward with this.

    The person does have a phone number which appears to be a landline for another state, but their official address is in Canada, and I have been unable to find their U.S. Address.

    What are my options?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Key West, FL

    Default Re: Small Claims Court California - Foreign Defendant

    Few and none.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Small Claims Court California - Foreign Defendant

    Read this. It's a decent rule, actually, as it keeps a bunch of cases out of small claims court where the court doesn't have personal (and often also lacks subject matter) jurisdiction. If the Defendant's not in California, what would you expect the small claims advisor to tell you?

    You can sue in a regular trial court in California and respond to any challenge as to jurisdiction and, if successful in obtaining a judgment, try to enforce the judgment against the Defendant where he now lives. You can sue where he now lives and try to get a judgment there, then attempt to collect it there.

    Note that there's a big difference between a choice of law clause (this contract is governed by the laws of California) and a choice of venue clause (in the event of litigation, all disputes are to be litigated within the courts of Los Angeles County, California).

    Also, inserting language that supposedly holds your customer liable to pay you if the customer cancels won't allow you to recover if the customer won't pay due to your breach of the contract - if you misrepresented your skills, the time to completion, how much you would charge, etc., you have given the customer a defense to your claim that he should pay.

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