Getting sued in the wrong state is frustrating, but you can fight back and win.
Summary: Creditors sometimes want to frustrate consumers by filing cases in the least convenient court location. A well-informed consumer can avoid this outcome by understanding how venues are determined and what you can do if your case is in the wrong venue. This article will give you the information you need to ensure your case is filed in the correct court. SoloSettle can help you settle your debt and avoid going to court altogether.
If you’ve ever been sued for owing a debt in a different state, then this article is for you.
Your case is in the right venue if the plaintiff filed in a court dedicated to your specific matter, usually small claims court, and the courthouse is in the most convenient location or where the civil action occurred.
If a collection agency files a case in the wrong venue, as a defendant, you can object and request the judge for a venue change. In the next section, we will define the proper venue, give you the requirements to choose a court venue, and guide you on what to do if the creditors file your case in the wrong court.
What is the legal meaning of venue?
According to the legal dictionary, the legal term venue can be defined in three ways:
The assigned court where a case will be heard
The state or county court that will select a jury and trial
A place where a civil action takes place
Part of the definition may be confused with jurisdiction, but the two have different meanings. Jurisdiction is the legal authority for a court to preside over a case and give a ruling, while the venue is the specific courthouse (location) where the matter will be heard.
For instance, the state or district court may have jurisdiction over your civil action case. However, the right venue is the court in the city where the debt was incurred or where you currently live.
What are the requirements for choosing the proper court venue?
Generally, a creditor must consider the following factors when selecting the court where they will file a lawsuit against you:
The state and city in which you reside and conduct your business
The place you incurred the debt
The location where you signed the contract
Any key events that occurred that led to the lawsuit
If the creditor violates your rights by filing the case in the wrong court, you can respond to the debt lawsuit and include the improper venue as one of your defenses.
Can a case have more than one proper venue?
Yes, a debt collection case can have more than one venue. For instance, if you live in one county and do business in another, then a creditor can sue you in either county. According to 15 U.S. Code § 1692i, if you established a debt in one state and moved to another, the collection agency can sue you in either the state where the contract was signed or the state where you currently reside.
The legal term for this provision is forum shopping. This term means the creditor has the right to choose which court to file the lawsuit. However, some considerations they may take before choosing are:
How convenient it is for you to attend court: A creditor may choose the furthest courthouse to increase your chances of missing the court date and receiving a default judgment.
Whether the court is hostile or favorable to the matter: If they know a court in one city favors consumers over the other, they are likely to pick the less favorable one.
Although the creditor has the legal right to choose the venue they prefer, as a defendant, you can request a transfer to another court if you give a good reason. Let’s consider an example.
Example: Nathan has lived in New York City for over five years. One day, his parents receive some court documents in the mail at their home in Tennessee. The documents are a Summons and Complaint, notifying Nathan that he’s being sued for a credit card debt he incurred when he was younger and still living at home. Since he hasn’t lived in Tennessee for several years, Nathan uses SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit. In his Answer document, Natahan lists improper venue as one of his affirmative defenses. The court dismisses the case, and the debt collectors have to re-file in New York if they still want to pursue Nathan’s debt.
In the example above, the consumer successfully challenged the court venue and won. Here’s how you can do it too.
How do I legally challenge a court venue?
Once you receive the lawsuit, remember to send and file an Answer first, or your chances of getting a new venue may not be possible. You can add the incorrect venue as part of your defense, like we mentioned above.
Next, send a separate letter to the court requesting a change of venue. Include the following sections in your court challenge letter:
Clearly say that you want to challenge the venue
Explain the reasons you believe the creditors filed in the wrong court
Name the court where you think the case should have been filed
Make sure you attach a copy of the claim the creditor sent you. Here is a sample venue challenge letter you can adjust and use to fit your circumstance.
Lastly, use certified mail or hand deliver it to the courthouse and send another copy to the creditor's lawyers. Send this letter at least ten days before the court date.
Settle your debt outside of court
If you’ve been sued for debt, the idea of going to court might seem pretty intimidating. Luckily for you, debt settlement can help you avoid going to court altogether. Here’s how.
Settling a debt involves offering to pay off a portion of the debt, or the debt in full, to have your name cleared of the debt. On average, consumers can reach a debt settlement for about half of the original debt amount, potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
When a debt settlement is reached, the creditor or debt collector agrees to cancel the debt and no longer reports it to the credit reporting agencies. On top of this, debt settlement ensures that you are never bothered about the debt again.
Here are three steps you can follow to settle your debt before going to court:
Respond to the debt lawsuit with an Answer. Even if you plan to settle your debt, you should file an Answer with the court and send a copy to the opposing lawyer. This will protect you from receiving a default judgment, which gives creditors and collectors the rights to garnish your wages and seize your property. Some collectors are known to make a verbal settlement agreement then go behind your back to request a default judgment against you, knowing all along that you didn’t respond to the case in court. This is why your first step should be to respond to the lawsuit.
Make a settlement offer, starting low, to begin negotiations. After you’ve responded to the lawsuit, you’re ready to make a settlement offer. You may consider sending an initial offer of around 60% of your original debt amount. This should kick start the negotiations process. You may go through a few rounds of offers and counteroffers before you come to an agreement. That’s okay. Just be sure you don’t agree to an amount that you know you cannot afford to pay.
Get the debt settlement agreement in writing. This is an important step because it protects you from any funny business. Once you have a debt settlement agreement signed by you and the creditor or collector, you don’t have to worry about dealing with the debt ever again (as long as you keep your end of the agreement). Here’s a debt settlement agreement example, for your reference. You can also check out our guide on debt settlement agreements and what should be included in yours.
Check out this video to learn more about these three steps:
SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, can help you with each of these three steps and more. Our tech-based approach to debt settlement helps you send and receive offers to creditors and debt collectors until you reach an agreement. Then, SoloSettle manages the debt settlement agreement documentation for you and processes your settlement payment so you don’t have to give our your financial information to any pesky debt collectors.
You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.
SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.
And 50% of our customers' cases have been dismissed in the past.
"Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly is kinda scary. I started researching on YouTube and found SoloSuit's channel. The videos were so helpful, easy to understand and encouraging. When I reached out to SoloSuit they were on it. Very professional, impeccably prompt. Thanks for the service!" - Heather