Debt collectors have become increasingly aggressive in collecting debts in recent years. A new tactic is to use the court system to sue consumers for old debts. However, these debt collectors and the firms they hire are often not filing the lawsuits in the correct jurisdiction.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, when a debt does not involve real property, a consumer can only be sued in two locations: 1) where the consumer entered into the contract; and/or 2) where the consumer currently resides. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692i(a)(2). This rule applies to any “legal action” and therefore even initiating a wage garnishment in the wrong county can lead to a violation.
Therefore, if a debt collector or law firm is using the court system to collect an old credit card debt from you, the legal action can only be brought in the county where you first opened that credit card, or in the county where you currently live in.
Debt collectors usually try to locate you and file where you currently live but often times they do not do an adequate investigation and file using an old address. You are not required to bear the burden and expense of traveling to an incorrect venue. If a lawsuit is filed against you in the incorrect county, you should immediately contact an attorney. Not only can you have the lawsuit transferred to a courthouse closer to you, you may have an FDCPA violation entitling you to up to $1,000 in statutory damages, any actual damages you have suffered, plus your attorney’s fees and costs. Also, the FDCPA violation is not waived by appearing and defending the lawsuit in the incorrect state court, so if you have already answered the state court lawsuit, it is not too late to speak to an attorney.