General Question

MarthaStewart's avatar

If I have a problem with a company I dealt with on the internet, where do I sue them?

Asked by MarthaStewart (639points) November 18th, 2010

Let’s say I live in NY and the company is based in Ohio, can I sue them in small claims court in NY? or am I expected to go to Ohio just to sue them?

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6 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar


The truth is you will need to find out where the bad guys/gals are physically located, and take them to court in that jurisdiction.
You may want to check what you agreed to on the internet transaction. You may only be able to go to mediation.

BarnacleBill's avatar

You could start by filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau which is expanding into online business practices.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Look in the terms and conditions of the website, I am a website designer, and I can tell you what my lawyers have told me. For the terms and conditions to be legally binding, they need to state in their terms and conditions what jurisdiction they are operating in. If they don’t state any jurisdiction you basically have already won as any conditions you agreed to are void. Then its just a matter of finding them and having them be in the same country as you.

Chances are, if they are a legitimate company that they have stated a jurisdiction, and it will probably be by country, not by state.

I’m no lawyer, and the aforementioned is not legal advice, just 2nd hand information is all. I also live in Europe, so in the USA it could be different, but i dont imagine it being too different.

If you tell me the domain name of the site in a private message or something, i can try and find out some info for you.

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m not a lawyer, and the laws can be very different for different areas, but form my experience with small claims court and the advice I’ve received since, you’re almost always better off finding a way to solve the problem other than suing them.

I wish someone would have explained (or I would have researched) the whole process before I went through it myself, so here’s a concise run through just from my own experience.

Taking them to small claims court in this case would probably mean filing with the court in their area and traveling there for your court date. A best case scenario would be that they actually show up, you meet with a mediator, and can work out of a deal before ever appearing in front of the judge. If they don’t show (they aren’t required to) or you can’t come to an agreement, you appear before the judge and have your say. If you win, you get a judgement in your favor. Unfortunately they don’t hand you anything right then.

The judgement goes on record with the court, but is essentially a piece of paper they mail you a couple weeks later. Now you have a really official looking IOU from the court and it’s up to you to collect on it for the most part. In a lot of ways you’re back where you started, out your travel expenses, travel time, and have the judgement saying they do indeed owe you money. It won’t necessarily cause them to take action.

The court generally does provide some services related to collecting, but you pay for those services and in the area I went to court, still have to locate assets to be collected against. For me, this was more difficult to do from 1500 miles away.

Here’s a basic guide to collecting judgements you might want to look through before making a decision.

In short, if there’s a way to work it out without going to court, I’d try everything you can there first, suing them would really be a last option and even then only if the amount is worth the time and effort and you really believe you’re clearly in the right about any money owed you.

Andreas's avatar

Further to what @poisonedantidote said: Usually (at least for US law, as I understand it, although I, too, am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice) web site owners are advised to have in their various legal docs on site state that all legal actions will be in their home town so they are not inconvenienced with travel, costs, etc, but you are.

And usually these docs will also state that the only legal option you have is mediation.

While you have some sort of moral right to a refund or similar, laws are based on what is written, and depending on the amount of money we are talking about (you don’t mention the amount) it may not be worth all the costs, etc to seek a legal solution.

I, too, have been ripped off online, and in my case I haven’t been successful in getting a refund. The amount in my case is under $US 2,000,00 and it looks like I will just have to chalk it up to experience.

john65pennington's avatar

To receive true information, concerning your question, contact your local District Attorney Generals Office. if this company is in another state, other than your own, this may be a federal violation, since it crosses state lines. the DA can advise you on this.

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