Author Topic: Any small business owners out there ever have to sue a customer?  (Read 1843 times)

waltworks

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I've got a fella who owes me $10k, roughly. And he lives in another state. Obviously I'll be talking to a lawyer about the particulars soon, but maybe some of y'all have advice for me.
-Given that he's employed, has the products (I can prove this) and the amount he owes is extensively documented, is it worth pursuing? My gut says yes but I could be talked out of that. What are the standards of proof in a civil suit?
-How long do civil cases take to resolve? Is it purely a matter of the caseload in the particular jurisdiction where the suit is filed?
-Would it make more sense to just hire a collections agency and take the loss on their fee? If I win a judgement of some kind, how is collecting the judgement handled? Assuming he can't pay in a lump sum, will the court handle garnishing his wages or do I have to do further work to get that to happen? Can I charge interest on the debt?
-Any other advice you'd give someone suing for the first (and hopefully only) time?

If the bottom line advice is really just "talk to a lawyer", I'll ask a mod to delete the thread.

Thanks!

-W

tmac

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Re: Any small business owners out there ever have to sue a customer?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2014, 02:27:46 PM »
I had to take a client to court for non-payment a few years back. It was just under the limit to do small claims court -- several thousand dollars. My attorney sent him a formal letter with a deadline, after which a complaint would be filed. Two days before the deadline, the lawyer had a certified reminder delivered. One day before, the client had a lackey deliver my check. Done. He pops up every once in a while. He "friended" me on Facebook a couple of weeks back. Yeah, no.

I was involved another case that didn't go as well. The client made the case that the services hadn't been delivered, and the service provider didn't give enough evidence to the contrary, so it was decided in the clients' favor. I had emails from the client saying how happy he'd been with the service right in my bag if only someone had asked me, and there was no opportunity to volunteer it.

BlueHouse

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Re: Any small business owners out there ever have to sue a customer?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2014, 02:30:53 PM »
I don't have specific advice for business scenario, but what state do you live in and what state is the customer?  I had an unpleasant dealing with a contractor once (home construction related) and knew civil claims through small claims wasn't going to be satisfying.  I lived in Georgia at the time and was able to file a criminal complaint for "Theft by Deception".  The threat of jail (which would never have happened) put some teeth into my claim and made the guy pay up (eventually). 

If your state doesn't have criminal laws that you can latch onto, you may also be able to get some type of interstate law involved.  Those are always much much scarier for people who seem to have no fear of the regular laws. 

rocketpj

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Re: Any small business owners out there ever have to sue a customer?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2014, 03:19:13 PM »
I had another business owe me about $6k for a couple of years.  Eventually he paid - partially in kind (a nice mountain bike for my kid) and the rest in cash.  For that to happen I had a long documented list of written interactions in which he acknowledged the debt but gave me reasons he couldn't pay - all of which I referenced when I told him I'd be engaging a lawyer.

Turns out the threat of a lawyer was enough, and he paid right away.  I should have done that a year earlier.