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Upstate NY here. I believe I am in the right to take a company to small claims court (for the sake of this question, it doesn't matter if I'm right or not). This company is registered as a 'Foreign Business Corporation' in NYS (I checked th DoC website) and does business in NYS.

Not sure if this makes any difference, but I use their services in my county of residence ("County A"), but within NYS, they are located in a different county ("County B").

Like I said, I want to take them to small claims court, and am wondering:

  • What county (and/or state) do I file the claim in?
  • I assume that, as part of filing a claim (at the court house), I'll need to provide their contact info as the defendent. What address should I be using, their NYS address (from the NYS DoC website) or their true, out-of-state headquarters?
  • Will I need to specifically name a defendent? If so, who do I choose? The CEO? The poor soul who picks up the phone when I call their 1-800 number?!?
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Giving you specific advice about where to file and who to name as a defendant can look like legal advice, so I will be careful here.

There are some rules about where to file. Generally, you are safe if you file in the county where the business is located. The things that might make the case suitable for your county are things like the nature of the dispute and the nature of the injury (injury is a legal term of art).

Generally (again, generally!) use the in-state address.

Most courts these days will have a form you fill out for small claims complaints. I bet the space for name asks for either the first and last of a person or a company name.

The plaintiff is responsible for serving the defendant, the court does not do it for you. You will be able to find a document outlining the specifics of who can serve process and what needs to be done. Something like this: How to Serve Legal Papers.

  • Thanks @jqning (+1) - on your last paragraph beginning "Another thing you need to know is who to serve with the complaint." I know every business has to maintain a Registered Agent in each state they conduct business in. Before asking this question, my inclination was that I would somehow identify the company as the defendent (on the small claims form), and then the court system would simply serve the company's Registered Agent... is that not the case?!? Or are you talking about something completely different here? Thanks again! – Manny Rodriguez Dec 21 '15 at 18:22
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    You are correct, I am going to change the last paragraph of my answer. – jqning Dec 21 '15 at 18:52
  • Thanks again @jqning (+1) - but now I'm really confused!!! You say that it is the plaintiff's responsibility for serving the defendant?! That's a bit wonky to me...what if I fail to serve the plaintiff and they don't show to the court date?! Also, I imagine serving costs $$$? Thanks again! – Manny Rodriguez Dec 21 '15 at 19:17
  • Yeah, you have to serve and it can be free. New York is nice because a friend or family can do service. You can also pay someone, which can be nice because they give you an affidavit of service. Note this - even if your friend does the service, they need a notarized affidavit of service. Read that doc I linked bc it explains that you need to swear to the age, skin color, height, weight, etc of the person who you served; the doc includes an affidavit to fill out. ALSO - rules of service might vary by locality. – jqning Dec 21 '15 at 19:29
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On the secretary of states's website, it will show their legal name under which they do business. This is the name you'd use for plaintiff. You will serve the registered agent listed on that site, for their USA affiliate (since their international). You can choose the county, so file closest to you. It won't really matter, because if they're international and they don't feel like dealing with you, they'll gave the case removed to Federal District Court since they have jurisdiction. This is a common corporate ploy, as people often can't afford to litigate in federal court, so they will often just drop the case. Any corporation whose home base is abroad or in another state can opt for federal court.

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