My Case and got a Judgment, but the
Defendant Didn’t Pay - now what?
Collecting on Judgments in the State of
Bob loans Larry
$1,500. Larry promises to pay him back
in three months. After six months goes
by without payment, Bob sues Larry and gets a judgment. Now, another six months have gone by and Bob
has his judgment, but not his money.
What can Bob do to get paid?
It is rather pointless to
go through the trouble of suing someone and getting a judgment against them if
you are not going to get the money you are suing for. The truth is that many judgments which are
entered by courts around the country every day will never get paid in full, and
many will never even be partially paid.
According to some estimates, 79 percent of judgments are never
Judgment collection is an
area of law that many attorneys avoid.
It is technical, but once you have an understanding of the rules, it is
relatively straightforward and not difficult.
At Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C., we’d be happy to meet with you and develop a
strategy for collecting on your judgment.
If you wish to hire us to handle the collection, you can sit back and
relax while we do the heavy lifting. In
some case, we’ll handle judgment collection on a contingent basis, while other
times judgments are handled on an hourly basis.
The specific circumstances surrounding your judgment will dictate which
fee structure applies to your case.
There are several tools
that are available to plaintiffs who seek to enforce a judgment in the state of
Maryland. Knowing how to use these tools
effectively will provide you with the best chance of getting paid.
The first thing you
should know is that you have to wait at least ten days before you can take
steps to enforce your judgment. This is
called an “automatic stay of enforcement.”
A court may order that a judgment be “stayed” beyond the ten days in
some circumstances. When an appeal is
taken, there are specific steps that the appealing party may take to stay a
judgment. In some cases, the appellant
may be required to file a bond or other security with the clerk of the court to
protect the other party against loss that results from the delay in
enforcement. Many times, the court will
condition a stay beyond the ten days provided for by law upon the filing of a
bond or other security.
After obtaining a
judgment, the plaintiff often will want to conduct discovery in aid of
enforcement. This allows the plaintiff
or “judgment creditor” to find out information concerning the defendant’s
(“judgment debtor”) financial income and assets which can be used to satisfy
the judgment. In the District Court,
there are two methods by which the judgment creditor can conduct
discovery. The first is by use of
Interrogatories in aid of Execution. The
judgment creditor can send the defendant written questions that the defendant
is required to answer. These questions
generally include requests for information about the employment, assets, and
banking of the defendant. The second,
and more effective means of discovery is by way of an oral examination.
An oral examination takes
place in court, similar to a trial. In
most cases, however, the judge will swear the defendant in and then allow the
plaintiff to ask questions of the defendant outside of the courtroom. This is to protect the privacy of the
defendant’s financial information. In
addition to the defendant, the plaintiff can request an oral examination of a
third party if it is probable that the defendant is indebted to that person, or
that they are holding property belonging to the defendant. An oral examination is requested by the
plaintiff by filling out a court form and filing it with the clerk. There is a small fee associated with
this. Once the plaintiff requests an
oral examination, the clerk will generate an order and the plaintiff must
personally serve the defendant with the order by the deadline set out in the
order. Only if the plaintiff obtains
service on the defendant will the plaintiff be able to conduct the oral
If the defendant fails to
answer Interrogatories in aid of Execution, or fails to show up for an oral
exam, the plaintiff may request authorization to file a request for a Show
Cause Order. There is a court form to
request a Show Cause Order. Once the
court generates the Show Cause order, the plaintiff must then serve the
defendant with the order. The Show Cause
order will have a court date. The
defendant will have to show up on that court date and tell the judge why he or
she didn’t comply with the Oral Examination or answer the Interrogatories in
aid of Execution. If the judge signs the
Show Cause Order, and the plaintiff properly serves it, and the defendant fails
to appear, the plaintiff can then request that the court issue a body
attachment, authorizing the sheriff to take the defendant into custody and
bring him before the court.
Once he has the
information concerning the defendant’s assets and employment, the judgment
creditor can take steps to enforce the judgment. Depending on what type of assets are owned by
the judgment debtor, the judgment creditor has various tools at his
disposal. Let’s see how we can get Bob
Generally, assets and
income are seized by the issuance of a writ.
There are various types of writs which the court will issue to help the
plaintiff get his money. A writ is
issued when the plaintiff fills out a request for the writ and files it with
the clerk. Generally, a small fee will
apply. Let’s look at the specifics:
A writ of execution is an
order directing the sheriff to levy upon specific property of the judgment
debtor. The plaintiff can seek a writ of
execution on either real property, or personal property that is owned by the
defendant. If a writ is sought with
respect to real property, the plaintiff must first record the judgment as a
lien in the Circuit Court.
A writ of garnishment is
an order used to obtain property of the debtor that is in the hands of a third
party. This means that if the debtor has
money in a bank account, or a lawn mower that has been lent to his neighbor,
you can seek to obtain that property in order to satisfy the judgment.
A writ of wage
garnishment is used to attach wages that are earned by the defendant. When a writ of wage garnishment is issued,
the defendant’s employer will send a check to the judgment creditor on a
weekley, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
This payment is then credited against whatever is owed on the judgment.
It is the plaintiff or
judgment creditor’s job to keep track of what payments are made on the
judgment. Judgments are generally
subject to 10% interest per annum.
Judgments based on rent for a residential premises are subject to 6%
interest per annum. The judgment
creditor is required to complete and mail to the garnishee and the judgment
debtor a statement disclosing the payments made and the manner in which they
were credited within 15 days after each month in which any payment is received
on the judgment.
If the judgment-debtor
has an interest in a partnership, the judgment creditor may ask the court for a
charging order, charging the partnership interest of the judgment debtor with
the payment of all amounts due on the judgment.
The court may order further relief, including the appointment of a
receiver for the judgment debtor’s share of the partnership profits and any
other money that is or becomes due to the judgment debtor by reason of their
Knowing about these tools
and how to use them can mean the difference between having a piece of paper
showing that you are owed money and getting paid. If you are owed money on a judgment, come
talk with us. We’ll be happy to help
The information contained on this page is provided as general
information and does not constitute legal advice. The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you are trying to collect on a judgment. Call today to schedule a consultation.
TThe Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:
Bankruptcy and Foreclosure, Business Law, Civil Litigation, Criminal Defense, Family Law, Government Contracts Law, Intellectual Property, Personal Injury, Real Estate, and Wills, Trusts, & Estates