It is indeed possible to sue someone in a Pennsylvania Court when they reside in a foreign country. Note, however, a lawsuit against a foreign defendant poses a number of challenges: 1) jurisdiction, 2) service of process, and 3) collectibility. Moreover, as with any contract case, the controlling agreement documents will need to be thoroughly reviewed to identify any rights and remedies.
With respect to jurisdiction, the Court must first have the ability to exercise control over a defendant to maintain a lawsuit against that person. Pennsylvania, like most states, has a long arm statute which outlines those circumstances when the Court can maintain personal jurisdiction over a resident of another state (or country). Typically, grounds for jurisdiction include: doing business in Pennsylvania, causing harm to somebody in Pennsylvania, or having property in Pennsylvania. The full list of acts that subject a person to personal jurisdiction of Pennsylvania Courts is found in the following link. Long Arm Statute: www.lrcvaw.org/laws/palongarm.pdf
As for service of process, a defendant in a civil action must be provided with notice of the lawsuit in a formalized manner. Typically this notice is achieved by a sheriff who hand delivers the lawsuit papers to the defendant. If that defendant resides out of state, then service of process can be achieved by certified mail. If, however, the defendant resides out of the country, you will need to explore whether any treaties between the United States and the defendant’s home country regulate service of process. Most commonly, service of process is governed by the Hague convention.
Finally, assuming you obtain a judgment, you must next identify a way to collect that judgment. If the defendant has any assets in the United States they can be seized and sold at auction
Stew Crawford, Jr., Esq.
Crawford Law Firm
A Full Service Law Firm Serving Pennsylvania and New Jersey
223 North Monroe Street
Media, Pennsylvania 19063 (Philadelphia Area)
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I concur with Mr. Crawford. You can bring a lawsuit in your jurisdiction. Aside from notice of process, the real issue you have to ask yourself is the capability to capture asset of this defendant. Obtaining a judgment is possible and ok if occurring in PA, but then what if the same judgement cannot be recognized in Estonia or the defendant does not have asset overseas?
These major issues need to be carefully analyzed with an international firm and with local counsel in Estonia. A due diligence is desirable.
You need to hire an international attorney.
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Hire an investigator in Estonia or whenever the person actually resides. It will be probably easier to file complaint where the defendant resides so that you don't need to register and enforce/execute judgment overseas. If you file in US then you will need two counsel; one in Estonia for service and collection and one in US for registration and execution if there is any property in US. Also, you can put it on the back burner if convince US district attorney to file charges and get a conviction with some kind of restitution judgment. Then sooner or later he will travel to US and will be arrested on a warrant. This will make him pay you back.
Be realistic, unless the Estonian scammer has accounts or property in the USA or took you for six figures or more; you may be wasting money on a lawsuit assuming you can ever serve process on him.
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