By Law Office of Bryan M. Grundon of Law Office of Bryan M. Grundon posted on Friday, April 25, 2014.
The Real World of Judgments
When Pacific Gas and Electric settled for $333 million in the class action case made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich, the plaintiffs, lawyers, and even Erin herself, all walked away with a win and a fair share of cash.
Yet, most of us aren't lucky enough to receive a $1 million check the day we win in court.
The judge or jury who ruled in your favor or the attorney who helped you win that judgment aren't going to stand around to ensure you get paid.
So what exactly can you do with that judgment? And how can you collect the money?
What is a Judgment?
That piece of paper you have is pretty powerful. The court has recognized that the person or entity you sued does owe you that money and now you can collect it. Yet, how exactly do you go about doing so?
There are a couple of ways civil judgments are rewarded. Some are entered after a court trial. Others are simply won by default, when the defendant didn't participate in the action by filing an answer to the complaint. Or the two parties agreed to entry of the judgment.
However your judgment came to be, the end result is the same: you are entitled to collect on the total amount shown on page two of the form.
Collecting: The good, the bad, and the effective
While PG&E obviously couldn't hide from Brockovich and her team of lawyers, most judgments involve average people and small businesses, making it more difficult to locate assets and subsequently collect on judgments.
One of the most common and often effective ways to collect is through a wage garnishment. If the defendant works in California or for a company doing business in California, we can file paperwork requesting that the employer withhold earnings from the employee. If the wage garnishment is successful, a percentage of the employer's earnings will be withheld and turned over to you until the judgment is satisfied.
Still, sometimes even when the debtor is gainfully employed this method fails. We had a judgment that appeared to be a dead end. The man worked, had a good job, and took home a substantial paycheck but we received notice back that he had another that took precedence. In those cases, the debtor most likely has a child support or IRS order.
But we didn't just stop there. We were able to find out where the man banked and took advantage of yet another collections device: a bank levy. In the case of a bank levy, whatever money is in the debtor's account on the day the levy is served is drained from the account, up to the amount of the judgment. For example if the judgment totals $100,000 and the bank account's balance is $15,500, every penny will be taken from the account.
The man's bank account was drained of more than $60,000, still not satisfying the nearly $70,000 judgment.
Now we have another bank levy out and are awaiting the results. So even without a high profile case involving PG&E, we are often able to find a way to put money back in our client's pocket.
These are just a few of the devices we can employ to help collect on your judgment. Please contact the Law Office of Bryan Grundon today to discuss options.