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Ask Dave Kennett Your Own Question
Dave Kennett
Dave Kennett, Lawyer (JD)
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 27689
Experience:  25 years experience in general law, including real estate, criminal, traffic, and domestic relations
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I want to file a small claim against someone who lived in my

Customer Question

I want to file a small claim against someone who lived in my city (cincinnati, oh) for about a month but is now living somewhere else (while he was here he did get an ohio drivers license with my address on it but I don't knkw if he got a new license since
he disappeared or not). Can I file the suit here in ohio or do I have to file it in the state he now lives (if I can even find an address for him)?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
Dear PLCUSTOMER - You would have to file your case wherever the individual now resides. The Ohio courts would have no jurisdiction over this person if he is not in Ohio so a judgment would be useless. The only exception would be if you have a written contract stating that Ohio would have jurisdiction in the case of a dispute. If there is no written contract and nothing placing jurisdiction in Ohio then the only place to sue would be where the defendant resides. Obviously you would have to locate him before you can file a suit and have him served. Most courts will permit you to file by mail so you would not actually have to travel to the other state in order to get the suit filed. You would have 6 years on an oral agreement and 8 years on a written contract in which to locate the defendant and to file your suit.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Hi Dave....thank you for your reply. You had one sentence that I was not sure I understood.
"The only exception would be if you have a written contract stating that Ohio would have jurisdiction in the case of a dispute."Would a lease count as a written contract? I cosigned a lease for an apartment I don't even live in. The person I signed for disappeared and changed his phone number. Just before he disappeared I was able to get him to sign papers with me to terminate the lease early (a lease buy-out, i guess it was called). Do any of those agreements serve as a "written contract" to give ohio court jurisdiction?
Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
They would count as a written contract but I doubt the contract had any language that Ohio would be the court of jurisdiction. You can file a suit in Ohio and try to have him served wherever he is located but the Ohio court would not have jurisdiction unless he made an appearance and defended the suit. I know all of this is complicated and it is one thing to get a suit filed and get a judgment and quite another to be able to collect from the defendant. If you can get him served and he fails to raise the jurisdiction or venue in an answer then you may be able to get a judgment by default. However, in order to collect you would still have to have the judgment certified in the other state so either way you are going to need to use the courts where he resides.