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Can You Sue Someone Who Moved Out of the Country?

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 19, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you entered a legal dispute with, or were injured by, another person who left the country, you may be wondering what you can do. Your right to pursue a legal claim against the person does not just disappear if they leave the country, but there will be additional steps in the judicial process, and it will likely become more difficult to recover monetary damages.

Generally, legal claims can be filed in state courts in the United States against individuals who have left the state and/or country. If the person being sued does not appear in court to defend themselves, they risk receiving a default judgment. However, there are likely international law issues with enforcing the default judgment abroad if the individual possessed no assets in the states.

What's the Point?

Frequently, because of the high cost of litigation and the low likelihood of recover against a person in a foreign country with no assets in the states, many people forgo filing legal claims against individuals that leave the country. However, this should not be done without having an experienced attorney assess the situation. There are some foreign countries that are easier to work with than others, and if your claim is large enough, it may be financially worth pursuing.

Additionally, if you believe the defendant has only left the country temporarily, many states allow judgments to be enforced upto a decade or more later.

Serving the Lawsuit Abroad, and Other Considerations

One of the most difficult aspects of suing someone in a foreign country is giving them notice of the lawsuit. The costs of tracking down the individual in another country can often scare off potential plaintiffs. However, actually delivering the papers to the person can be accomplished economically, even if you have to hire a local person to personally deliver the documents.

Additionally, it is worthwhile to consult and/or work with an attorney in the foreign country or an international law attorney in the US to ensure that your US judgment will be enforceable abroad.

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