Enforcing Judgments: Don’t Give Up At the Finish Line

Both attorneys and clients often feel frustrated at the end of a lawsuit with an apparently Pyrrhic victory:  a favorable judgment, but then facing the task of actually collecting from the defendant.  Whether the defendant (now having earned the title of “judgment debtor”) has any money, property or potential to pay the judgment seems like a dark mystery, made darker depending on their ability to hide assets under a rock (or off-shore).

One avenue that is sometimes missed:  the judgment-debtor’s pending lawsuits against a third party.  Recently, after attaching virtually empty bank accounts, we found that a client’s judgment debtor (who had literally taunted, “Come and get me!”) had sued a vendor for alleged breach of contract.  We sent restraining orders to the defendant in that other case, and to its attorney, directing them to pay to our client any amounts that the court might award to our judgment debtor, or that they might agree to pay in settlement.  They, of course, had no dog in our fight, and were somewhat pleased to comply if in fact they lost the case.   Eventually, our judgment debtor actually won on summary judgment in its case against the vendor – and our client received substantial money from the vendor/defendant.

So:  after winning a case against a purportedly “judgment proof” defendant, all is not lost.  With patience and persistence, and the luck of turning over the rock where potential assets are hidden, you can finish the race towards actually getting paid.  Kaufman & Kahn can help you research whether there are other, unrelated actions out there against the party who owes money – actions against which you might actually collect.