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Can I Sue Someone Who Lives Out-of-State?

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Generally, you have to sue an individual in the place where he or she lives or works.  So if you want to sue someone who lives and works in Nevada, you will have to sue in Nevada courts -- because an out-of-state resident cannot be served outside of California.

NOTE:  There are two exceptions to the general rule that out-of-state residents cannot be served outside of California:

1. If the case has to do with California real estate and the owner lives out-of-state, the owner can be sued in California courts and served Opens new window in their home state, and

2. People who are involved in a vehicle accident on a public road in California (and are the owner of the vehicle) may be served no matter where they live. To do this, papers must be served on both the out-of-state defendant and the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Also, out-of-state residents can be served with California court papers if they happen to be temporarily in California.

Rules governing how to start a small claims case in another state are different from state to state. You will need to find out about the law in the state you are suing in.  Usually, you can do some of this by looking at that state’s court website.

  • Check to see if there are small claims courts in the state where the person you want to sue lives. (They may be called “Justice Courts.”) 
  • Check to see if the state in which you wish to file the small claims suit allows documents to be filed by mail, or via the Internet, and how to pay the fee to file. 
  • Check to see if attorneys are allowed at the trial there. You may be able to hire a local attorney to represent you in court.

At the same time, think about trying to reach a settlement with the individual without going to court. Even a settlement for a smaller amount of money than you want may be cheaper for you than going to court in another state.



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