"The owner of the restaurant, Joe Blow, is the person I tried to sue. That didn't hold any water because I had no personal guarantee."
"Joe Blow the Corporation is supposedly the person I should be suing."
Correct as far as it goes.
"Joe Blow the restaurant has not done business with us since February and the new owner has never done business with us."
Again, the new owner may have assumed the obligations of the business when he bought the restaurant: rent, phone, other services, etc.
"If I turn this over to a collection attorney, all attorney fees will have to be paid by the owner of the corporation."
Maybe not. Attorney fees are generally not awarded unless your original agreement specified that loser pays attorney fees in the event of litigation.
Collection agencies always tack on attorney fees and other costs anyway. Having somebody after you for a 3800 debt that is suddenly 5000 or 6000 is basically a scare tactic to get people to start sending money. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
"Also, I would be able to sue for the full amount of $3800 rather than $3000."
That might be true if the collection agency uses a higher court. Trouble is, collection agencies generally avoid suing because they have to front the costs. They are in the business to get money not spend it.
If you hire them to collect on a commission basis, chances are they'll never sue and it'll be up to you anyway. If you sell the debt to them you may end up with half or less.
"I'm assuming I could add finance charges to the base sum as well."
Pre-judgment interest is also generally not awarded unless interest is specified in the original agreement. But post-judgment interest is probably a given.
"I hate to be taken advantage of. We dealthwith this person for over 5 years before things went sour."
Believe me, I know all about that. I was a landlord for 20 years. Had quite a few losers and uncollectible judgments in my time.
"I suppose I could put the word out on the wires that he has defaulted. At best, it will make it difficult for him to secure credit in the future."
I'd not do that. It can backfire with a defamation lawsuit against you. Even if you can beat the lawsuit you still get to spend lots of money on attorney fees to do it.
"I have a call into our local legislator to see in NJ has a website where you can view corporate filings"
I'll save you some time:
Look at the Public Record heading near the middle of the page. That should get you to it.
- The right of the people
- to keep and bear arms,
- shall not be infringed.