Shall I sue, or get over it?

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I'll do my best to not be too vague while still retaining anonymity. To keep it short, I am owed a decent but not life-altering amount, slightly over $9k, in form of a secured promissory note from someone I used to do business with. The repayment of the note was supposed to happen right after the sale of one of the debtor's assets, which just happened at the beginning of February. Of course, now he is more-or-less saying I need to let it go, and I can try taking him to court, but that the second I do he'll make sure he doesn't have a dime to give me by the time a judgement is handed down. I know I should have just put a lien on the asset, but the guy was a good friend at the time the note was written and again it's not a crazy amount of cash. There's one other person involved who is owed about 5.5k from the same guy and he's told me that he's not pursuing it. The case itself is rock solid; it's a note drafted by an attorney and signed and notarized by all parties involved, so I have no doubt that I'd win if it went to court. There's a few problems.

The note is about 2 years old. This guy moved to Hawaii at the end of last year, and I'm on the east coast. I'm about as far away from the dude as I can get and still be in the US. So basically the option is to get an attorney in HI to represent me or just don't sue. 

I have no doubt that the minute this guy gets served a summons he'll follow through and dump the money god-knows-where or spend it on something intangible in order to avoid having to repay it.

The amount is right in that middle area at least in my mind, where it's worth suing w/ an attorney and when it's just low enough that you should deal with the loss.

So, I've never been through civil litigation. I'm not really looking for legal advice per se, just really wondering from those that have been through litigation as a plaintiff if it's even worth it at this amount. At this point, it's not about the money, I just hate the thought of knowing that scumbag is floundering around Hawaii not giving a damn that he ripped a couple of guys that just wanted to help him out off. I'd pay 10k to a lawyer to get 9k from him, put it that way. But probably not 10k to a lawyer to get nothing but a noncollectable judgment. I guess the only real legal question I'll ask is if anyone knows if it is possible to freeze assets with a temporary injunction that did not involve the State being the plaintiff, since I know that guy has about 14k sitting an account right now. I can't see that being a legal possibility or everyone would do it whether or not the case had merit, but I could be wrong. 

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How is he going to serve him if he's in hawaii?

jman220 (Mar. 12, 2017 @ 8:51a) |

The same way as if he was living next door -- by hiring a process server.

scripta (Mar. 12, 2017 @ 7:37p) |

Sue him. If banks can litigate an uncontested foreclosure for <$1,000 you can get this done on the cheap.

alamo11 (Mar. 12, 2017 @ 7:40p) |

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And that is why you should never do business with your "friends".

Is he basically a deadbeat with no assets or income? An attorney can quickly do an asset search. I also imagine that spending that money once he's served could be criminal, but IANAL. I'd talk to an attorney.

did he say he'd dump the money, or was it a text, email, or other recordable media?

File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.

scripta said:   Is he basically a deadbeat with no assets or income? An attorney can quickly do an asset search. I also imagine that spending that money once he's served could be criminal, but IANAL. I'd talk to an attorney.
  I agree with this. Don't know if it is possible but - can an attorney do an asset search first before filing anything or notifying the guy? I just don't think he can "dump" all his assets without any trace. If the assets are found, then the suit filed - then another asset search would show the deliberate dumping.

I think it would be time well spent for a consultation with an attorney.

Sounds like a real POS.

I'd call up a few attorneys and explain the case. See what they say. I'd pursue him just for the principle of the matter. 

AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
  What's the rule about suing someone out of the area? 

I do agree OP should do a public service and at least raise a credit flag up for others.

If the note was drafted/agreed/signed in your state, then you should be able to sue in your state (IANAL).

Does the debtor work a regular W-2 job? If so, eventually you should be able to collect - even slowly over time.

AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
I think most small claim courts have lower damage amount limits than the $9k the OP is talking about so it may be a matter more for a regular civil court. I'd just talk to a lawyer about whether they think they have any chance of collecting on any judgement. If nobody wants to take your case without much retainer or contingency-fee, that also tell you a bit about their expectation of recovering money from it. 
Of course, now he is more-or-less saying I need to let it go, and I can try taking him to court, but that the second I do he'll make sure he doesn't have a dime to give me by the time a judgement is handed down.
Maybe let him worry about that. And in any case, the default judgement will remain on his record for a while and be a pain to deal with if he's trying to build equity back up, work in a state where wages can be garnished (Hawaii is), etc. All kinds of fun for the deadbeat. It just depends on how much you're willing to go through to make it happen.

Shandril said:   
AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
I think most small claim courts have lower damage amount limits than the $9k the OP is talking about so it may be a matter more for a regular civil court. I'd just talk to a lawyer about whether they think they have any chance of collecting on any judgement. If nobody wants to take your case without much retainer or contingency-fee, that also tell you a bit about their expectation of recovering money from it. 
Of course, now he is more-or-less saying I need to let it go, and I can try taking him to court, but that the second I do he'll make sure he doesn't have a dime to give me by the time a judgement is handed down.
Maybe let him worry about that. And in any case, the default judgement will remain on his record for a while and be a pain to deal with if he's trying to build equity back up, work in a state where wages can be garnished (Hawaii is), etc. All kinds of fun for the deadbeat. It just depends on how much you're willing to go through to make it happen.

  Might try to offer him one last settlement amount at cents on the dollar.  Small claims may get you enough to have a cheap judgement that can accrue interest.  if nothing else make him blow his egg on H&B or sweat it.  A blackmark on a credit report will make times fun for some forms of employment.

Just sell your note to a debt collector

In many states, you must be a resident of that state or own property in that state in order to be served in small claims court.

Well I know lawyers are pricey- but how much could this really cost if it's very open and shut and there is a good chance he won't even show up? You probably need almost no prep time. I'd wonder if you couldn't get some lawyer to handle this for 1-2k? If you lose it then oh well. If you win it but can't collect then oh well. Although, as pointed out above you'd probably at least make his life very uncomfortable.

wp746911 said:   I'd wonder if you couldn't get some lawyer to handle this for 1-2k? If you lose it then oh well. If you win it but can't collect then oh well.
 

um..."oh well" is just throwing away $2k? I probably wouldnt even notice losing $2k but i wouldnt willfully go out and waste it either.

anyway - the default judgment in small claims court makes sense to me. yeah it'll be under the $9k, but more than a debt collector would pay, plus you can do it yourself, get it on the record, and not incur much more costs.

prosperity said:   scripta said:   Is he basically a deadbeat with no assets or income? An attorney can quickly do an asset search. I also imagine that spending that money once he's served could be criminal, but IANAL. I'd talk to an attorney.I agree with this. Don't know if it is possible but - can an attorney do an asset search first before filing anything or notifying the guy?Yes, an attorney (really anyone who knows how to do it) can do an asset search pretty easily without filing or notifying. This is the first thing they do when deciding if suing someone is worth their time.

Of course assets can be hidden, but OP's friend isn't smart enough.

I dislike 1 & done posts by new members. So many unknowns. It's just guessing without OP following up.

AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
  2nd this, then transfer the judgment to the state in which he now resides

upanddown said:   
AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
  2nd this, then transfer the judgment to the state in which he now resides

  As I think has been mentioned above, I believe in many states the defendant has to reside within that state. I had a former roommate sue me in small claims, claiming that I had agreed to a lease (I hadn't) and owed money when I moved out with a month's notice. He apparently listed my address as the old apartment, I obviously didn't get notice, and he emailed me to let me know when the hearing was. I wrote the court, advised I was outside of its jurisdiction, and the case was thrown out.

If the other guy owed money would change his mind, you might ask an attorney if he would take the case on a contingency basis. The attorney gets his share at the same time you are both paid. You could do this alone, but the attorney would probably want a higher percentage of the recovered amount.

Here is a list of small claims court limits. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/small-claims-suits-how-mu...

The guy sounds like someone always looking for his next victim. He may have money or income that you can recover with a judgement but is hoping you fold.

Go for it.

AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
  

In NC, unless the person is personally served by the Sheriff, you don't get anything.  You don't get a default judgement for someone not showing up for something they may not know about.   Otherwise, people would be sueing like crazy.

Is the $5,500 owed based on the same or a similar promissory note? If so, you might be able to sue together in one lawsuit and split the costs (or you could pay all the costs in exchange for a portion of his collection, if there ever is one). $14,500 instead of $9,000 changes the economics a little in your favor.

I thought Hawaii was pretty expensive to live in?

I'm in a process suing someone through a small claim too (about $3000 dollars). That person is leaving 100 miles away from me, so I'm hiring private service to serve the court paper.
I'm worried what if the serve is failed (that person can certainly not show up when someone knocks the door). Even if the serve succeeded, I get a judgement, how do I get my money if the defendant doesn't cooperate?

ezletzpla said:   I thought Hawaii was pretty expensive to live in?
Not when you borrow money from people and don't pay them back

jimmax said:   I'm in a process suing someone through a small claim too (about $3000 dollars). That person is leaving 100 miles away from me, so I'm hiring private service to serve the court paper.
I'm worried what if the serve is failed (that person can certainly not show up when someone knocks the door). Even if the serve succeeded, I get a judgement, how do I get my money if the defendant doesn't cooperate?

You're going to all this trouble but haven't researched how to collect? If they work a W2 job, wage garnishment. If not, it'll be tricky. Placing liens on property they own may or may not force them to pay you eventually.

donotdrinkPBR said:   
jimmax said:   I'm in a process suing someone through a small claim too (about $3000 dollars). That person is leaving 100 miles away from me, so I'm hiring private service to serve the court paper.
I'm worried what if the serve is failed (that person can certainly not show up when someone knocks the door). Even if the serve succeeded, I get a judgement, how do I get my money if the defendant doesn't cooperate?

You're going to all this trouble but haven't researched how to collect? If they work a W2 job, wage garnishment. If not, it'll be tricky. Placing liens on property they own may or may not force them to pay you eventually.

  
Depending on your state, wage garnishment may not be an option.   

Unless you know the person, they have money, then like you, and they have a conscience, you are wasting your time and money.

The judgement will appear on their credit report, will hurt their score for a couple of years, but unless they are in a hurry to buy a house, it will eventually fade into the night, and you will see nothing for your troubles..

As a landlord, I have multiple judgements against former tenants...and one against me.  I had one person pay.  I think they inherited a large sum of money and wanted to clear their conscience.   The one against me for ~1000, which was never paid, has faded away, and my score has rebounded.  

drew2money said:   
donotdrinkPBR said:   
jimmax said:   I'm in a process suing someone through a small claim too (about $3000 dollars). That person is leaving 100 miles away from me, so I'm hiring private service to serve the court paper.
I'm worried what if the serve is failed (that person can certainly not show up when someone knocks the door). Even if the serve succeeded, I get a judgement, how do I get my money if the defendant doesn't cooperate?

You're going to all this trouble but haven't researched how to collect? If they work a W2 job, wage garnishment. If not, it'll be tricky. Placing liens on property they own may or may not force them to pay you eventually.

  
Depending on your state, wage garnishment may not be an option.   

Unless you know the person, they have money, then like you, and they have a conscience, you are wasting your time and money.

The judgement will appear on their credit report, will hurt their score for a couple of years, but unless they are in a hurry to buy a house, it will eventually fade into the night, and you will see nothing for your troubles..

As a landlord, I have multiple judgements against former tenants...and one against me.  I had one person pay.  I think they inherited a large sum of money and wanted to clear their conscience.   The one against me for ~1000, which was never paid, has faded away, and my score has rebounded.  

  That person owns a small truck company (for delivery I think). He is also the driver hit my car, but his insurance denied coverage. So I have to sue him and the company to get money. Not sure how to collect money from the small business if i win.

Note to Op: you're expected to follow up on this here.

For future reference:
Did you decide to sue?

If so, what was the outcome. - Preferably with as much detail as possible. (Hopefully there will be no NDA since you are suing an individual.)

Sorry for the delay. I hate one-and-done stories too.

As much as I would love to sue in my home state, from what I've researched, you really have to sue them in the defendant's state of residence, even if the breached contract was signed in said home state. There are some exceptions but they don't apply here. I was surprised by this but I it makes sense.

I'm still weighing my options. The likelihood of winning is very high; the likelihood of collecting is proportionally as low. But, not having the knowledge that I let some bottom-feeder walk away with this money without a fight might be worth a couple thousand in attorney fees. We will see how it plays out. I'll come back periodically to update this.

Instead of suing, can you just send a collection agency after him?

Have you tried just sending the guy a formal demand letter? Working out payments or even straight up bartering?

Call/google your local bar referral and get a quick legal opinion. It's usually free or $25ish for an hour.

AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.
  How is he going to serve him if he's in hawaii?  

jman220 said:   AverageGuy09 said:   File in small claims court in your jurisdiction for whatever the max amount is.  Present your evidence, get a default judgement because the guy doesn't show up, ruin his credit for the next 10 years.  No, you won't get the money, but maybe a little bit of revenge.  Besides, someday he might grow up and decide to actually pay you to get the judgement removed.  Which will never happen if you don't have a judgement hanging over his head.How is he going to serve him if he's in hawaii?The same way as if he was living next door -- by hiring a process server.

Sue him. If banks can litigate an uncontested foreclosure for <$1,000 you can get this done on the cheap.



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