How do I start legal proceedings on a friend who owes me money?

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How do I start legal proceedings on a friend who owes me money?

My friend owes me $10,000. I can’t get him to keep his word to pay me back; I can’t get him to return my phone calls. I have many documents of him promising he will pay me.I was listed as a lien holder on his house but it was foreclosed on so I got nothing. I am now ready finally to take legal action against him and need to know the cheapest most effective way to get him to step it up. At one point he agreed to contact me and or pay me each 15th of the month but last month nothing.I will do the work myself if I have to but I need to do something so I can stop calling him and texting him and feeling upset.

Asked on September 13, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

You can sue your friend for breach of contract (account stated). The documents in which he promised to pay you are evidence of the existing debt. 

Since the amount you are owed exceeds the maximum you could recover in Small Claims Court in CA, you will need to file your lawsuit in Municipal Court.  Your damages (the amount you are seeking to recover in your lawsuit) would be $10,000 plus interest plus court costs.  Court costs would include the court filing fee and process server fee.

You can obtain court forms for a lawsuit for breach of contract/account stated.  Complete the forms and file them with the court with an attached summons on top. You will need to have a process server serve the summons and complaint (complaint is the lawsuit attached to the summons) after you file it with the court.  After your lawsuit has been served on your friend, you will need to file the completed proof of service (which is on the back of the summons) with the court.  The process server completes the proof of service when your friend is served with the documents.  The process server can file the proof of service with the court or you can do it yourself.  The process server might charge extra to file it with the court.  Depending on the local rules of court, you might need to file a certificate of service in addition to the proof of service with the court.  The certificate of service verifies that all defendants named in the lawsuit have been served with the summons and complaint.  If a certificate of service is required, don't miss the filing deadline on that or you might be subject to sanctions (court-imposed fines).

You can find process servers listed under attorney services in the Yellow Pages or online.

If your friend fails to file an answer to the complaint within the time specified in the summons, you can file a request for default with the court.  This means you have won by default; however, this is not necessarily the end of the case because your friend can file a motion to set aside the default.  If the court grants that motion, litigation will continue and the case is back on track.

If you are successful in getting a judgment against your friend, you should then seek a wage garnishment to enforce the judgment.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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