Are you Being Sued in Texas Even Though You Live in Another State? You May Have Options for Challenging Jurisdiction.

Getting sued is time-consuming, burdensome, and costly, especially if a plaintiff sues you in a state where you neither live nor operate a business. 

At Wood Edwards LLP, we understand the whole notion of defending a lawsuit in a state like Texas, where you do not live or operate your business, is unjust. Many clients inquire, How can someone sue me from another state?

We dedicate our resources and vast experience litigating business disputes in state and federal courts to business organizations and individuals who live in another state but are called to respond to a lawsuit filed in Texas. Our firm will develop a defense strategy designed to contest jurisdiction in Texas courts expeditiously and efficiently. 

Can Someone Sue Me in Texas If I Live in Another State?

Texas courts can adjudicate only matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the court. Texas law limits state courts’ jurisdiction by subject matter and monetary value of the case as outlined in the pleadings. Courts must be concerned with personal jurisdiction as well. 

Understanding Personal Jurisdiction in Texas

Personal jurisdiction refers to a Texas court’s authority to order a person or business entity to appear and respond to the plaintiff’s allegations. A court without personal jurisdiction over the defendant has no authority to adjudicate the case filed by the plaintiff. The defendant is under no obligation to respond to the lawsuit filed in a court lacking personal jurisdiction.

Primarily, Texas courts obtain personal jurisdiction over a person or business entity because they live in Texas, own property in Texas, or do business in Texas. Out-of-state corporations doing business in Texas (sometimes referred to as “foreign corporations”) must appoint a resident agent to receive petitions, complaints, and other legal pleadings. The resident agent acts on behalf of the corporation, and service of process upon the resident agent has the same legal effect as serving a corporate clerk or president of the corporation. 

How Courts Acquire Personal Jurisdiction in Texas

Texas courts acquire personal jurisdiction when a person, or the agent of a business, receives service of process within the state of Texas. The service of process is complete when a person with authority provided by Texas law delivers a copy of the plaintiff’s petition and the citation issued by the court to the defendant. Service is sufficient if the process server delivered the documents 

  • In-hand to the defendant or registered agent;
  • At the last place of abode for the defendant;
  • At the last and usual place of business; or 
  • At any location where the defendant may be located.

Texas law authorizes particular individuals to serve the legal process on defendants. Sheriffs, constables, and a disinterested person over 18 years of age can serve legal process under Texas law. 

Texas Long-Arm Statute

Our out-of-state clients frequently ask us, How can someone sue me in Texas if I live in another state? The answer is quite complicated but begins with the operation of Texas’s long-arm statute. Texas’s long-arm statute allows plaintiffs to sue non-Texas businesses and residents in certain circumstances. 

The authority the long-arm statute confers on Texas courts is not absolute, although it is construed broadly. Proper use of Texas’s long-arm law is the only way a person can sue you from another state.

Texas’s long-arm statute confers jurisdiction over a person living outside the state or a non-resident corporation, joint-stock company, partnership, or association who is doing business within Texas. Doing business has a variety of meanings, including when a non-resident:

  • Uses the mail or other means to contract with a party in Texas and the contract is performed in whole or in part in Texas;
  • Commits a tort in whole or in part within Texas; or
  • Recruits people from Texas for employment either in or outside of Texas.

Using the internet to conduct business with a Texas company could be construed as doing business in Texas.

Contesting Jurisdiction in Texas

The Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from facing litigation in Texas if the person or corporation has insufficient connections to the state. The U.S. Supreme Court calls the connections required under the Due Process Clause “minimum contacts.”

A person or business without meaningful ties, business relationships, or contacts to Texas is not subject to a Texas court’s personal jurisdiction.

Special Appearance Filings in Texas

Upon service of a petition and citation, the defendant has until 10:00 AM on the Monday following the 20th day after being served to answer the complaint. Answering the complaint is a general appearance under Texas law. The defendant loses the chance to object to the court’s jurisdiction if they file a general appearance. However, there are several alternative options that will allow you to challenge the court’s jurisdiction.

Special Appearance

Texas’s Code of Civil Procedure Rule 120a allows defendants to object to the jurisdiction of a Texas court without submitting to the court’s jurisdiction. A special appearance fling is a pleading that contests the court’s jurisdiction by claiming that the defendant is not amenable to service of process issued by any court in Texas. 

A special appearance does not allow the defendant to contest the merits of the suit. Instead, the motion argues that the defendant is not required to defend the lawsuit in Texas because it lacks sufficient minimum contacts with Texas. If the court grants the defendant’s special appearance motion, then the court must dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiff may have a right to file the claim in another jurisdiction because there is no ruling on the allegations’ merits.

A special appearance in Texas is a highly technical pleading. If a special appearance in Texas is not pleaded correctly, the defendant will lose the opportunity to dispute jurisdiction. That means a non-resident of Texas will be subject to personal jurisdiction in Texas despite the court lacking jurisdiction.

Pleas to the Jurisdiction of the Court

Pleas to the jurisdiction of the court are similar to special appearances in Texas. A plea to the jurisdiction of the court in Texas is a motion that contests the subject matter jurisdiction of the court. As mentioned above, the court must have personal jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter jurisdiction over the case to adjudicate the dispute. 

A plea to the jurisdiction of the court, like a special appearance, does not reach the merits of the plaintiff’s case. Instead, a plea to the jurisdiction alleges that the court does not have authority to hear the matter. 

You can make a plea to the jurisdiction before filing a formal answer to the petition or during the summary judgment phase of the litigation. The judge reviews the pleadings and assumes the plaintiff’s allegations are true solely for a plea to the jurisdiction.

Motion to Quash Service 

A motion to quash service in Texas argues a defect in the citation issued by the court. If allowed, the judge must dismiss the current lawsuit. However, the plaintiff could file a new case or ask the court for permission to issue a corrected citation. A motion to quash service of process does not affect the merits of the plaintiff’s case.

Hiring a Local Attorney Could Help You Avoid Costly Litigation in Texas

Wood Edwards LLP consists of business litigation attorneys with extensive experience litigating business disputes and complex litigation in Dallas and throughout Texas. Wood Edwards LLP works closely with attorneys from out of state to defend non-resident individuals and businesses against civil litigation in Texas. If you have been wondering, How can someone sue me from another state? contact us today at 214-496-5276.