If You Are Sued in the Wrong Court

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If you think the plaintiff has filed suit in the wrong small claims court or, in legal lingo, "in the wrong venue," you can challenge the court's right to hear the case (challenge the venue).

As discussed in Chapter 9, you can do this in two ways. First, you can go to court on the day your case is scheduled and request that the case be dismissed. If the judge disagrees with you, he or she will simply go ahead and hear the case. However, if the judge agrees that the location is improper, your case will either be dismissed or transferred to a court in the appropriate judicial district.

Your second, and probably easier, option is to write to the court, explaining why you think the claim was brought in the wrong place. Send a copy of your letter to each of the other parties. If the judge agrees that the suit was brought in the wrong place, the case will be dismissed. If the judge disagrees, he or she will postpone the hearing to give you an opportunity to appear. You will receive notification of the court's decision by mail.

Out-of-state defendants should ask for a dismissal. As discussed in Chapter 9, if you don't live–or do business–in the state in which you are sued, the small claims court normally doesn't have power ("jurisdiction") to enter a valid judgment against you, unless court papers are served on you while you happen to be in the state. Exceptions to this rule exist for out-of-staters sued because of a dispute involving their real property located in the state or because of a traffic accident that occurred in the state. If you are an out-of-state resident and receive small claims papers via the mail, promptly write a letter to the court explaining that you do not believe you are subject to the court's jurisdiction. Send a copy of your letter to each of the other parties. Stay in touch with the court until you are sure the case has been dismissed.

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