You've won the case and got a judgment, now what? A judgment is a determination from a court that you won the case and are owed a certain amount of money from the defendant you sued. Unfortunately, neither the judge nor jury will hand you a check after you've won your case, and many defendants still wont pay even after you've received a judgment. A new phase in the case then begins: the judgment enforcement or "debt collection" phase.
The following methods can be used in the event the defendant refuses to pay a judgment.
Wage Garnishments: In Massachusetts, 15% of a defendants gross wages can be garnished until the outstanding judgment is paid in full. https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIII/TitleIV/Chapter246/Section28. In order to garnish the defendant's wages, a separate law suit must be filed where the defendant's employer is named as a "trustee defendant". This is done so that you can obtain an order from the court, directed at the employer, that 15% of the defendant's wages be paid directly to you or your attorney.
Bank Account Levies: The procedure for a bank account attachment is similar to the procedure for a wage garnishment. Instead of naming the employer as a trustee defendant, however, the defendant's bank is named as the trustee defendant in your law suit. As a plaintiff you can then seek an order from the court, directed at the bank, that funds in the defendant's account be paid over to you. Defendants of certain types of accounts are entitled to keep the first $2,500.00 in the account. If the defendant has stock or investment accounts, a similar procedure to this and the one below can be used.
Reach and Apply Actions: Your defendant might not be employed by a third party and may not be getting a regular stream of income from a single source. If the defendant, for example, is self employed and has other people or companies who owe him or her money for specific work that the defendant performed, you can seek a court order that the clients of your defendant pay you directly. For example, let's say a general contractor owes you $100,000.00 but hasn't paid. If that contractor has done work on the home of one of his customers, and that home owner owes the contractor money, you can seek a court order that the home owner pay you instead.
Real Estate Levies: If the defendant owns real estate, you as a judgment creditor are entitle to place a lien on the defendant's property, subject to the defendant's homestead rights. If there is equity in the property, this is often a good way to have your judgment paid.
Receiverships: If you obtained a judgment against a defendant corporation which has failed to make payment within 30 days of a sheriff making demand, then, under M.G.L. Ch. 156 § 51, you can request that the judge appoint a receiver to take control over the assets of the corporation. A receiver can also be appointed to take control over the assets of an individual defendant under some circumstances. A receiver, once appointed by a judge, has the authority to gather the defendant's assets and sell them for the benefit of all creditors. A receiver has the right to have the defendant's mail and email forwarded to them so that they can better assess the defendant's financial situation. A receiver also has the right to ask questions to the defendant's employees about the defendant's assets, and to inspect the defendant's financial records.
Supplementary Process and Asset Discovery:: If you don't know where the defendants assets are, a special proceeding in court can be scheduled, called a supplementary process hearing, where you have a right to question a defendant under oath as to the what income the defendants income and assets are. You can request that the Defendant provide you, in advance of the hearing, financial information such as bank account statements, profit and loss statements, tax returns, etc. This information can then be used to ask a judge to order the defendant to turn over certain assets to you, or it can be used as a basis to start one of the above procedures.
Disclaimer- Material presented on the Law Office of Joseph Perl website is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as professional advice and should not be construed as such.
203 Arlington St. Suite 2, Watertown, MA 02472-2036