You have just obtained a judgment against the (now) judgment defendant either by default, summary judgment, verdict or agreement and think that the case is over and you will now be getting paid. Unfortunately, often getting a judgment isn’t even half the battle because there is no guarantee the judgment defendant will voluntarily pay. You now must continue to use the legal process to obtain payment by any method that will be effective in recovering the money awarded in the judgment.
If, after we obtain a judgment, the business still won’t pay the debt or make acceptable payment arrangements to repay the debt, we then begin to enforce post judgment procedures. These procedures commonly include filing an abstract of judgment, serving post judgment discovery on the judgment defendant, filing bank garnishments, executing on the judgment by having the clerk issue a writ of execution and obtaining turnover orders.
Post judgment discovery is directed at determining what assets the judgment defendant has in its possession or are held by a third party. Post judgment discovery can be in the form of interrogatories, which are a series of questions directed to a representative of the judgment defendant; requests for production, which are a list of requests seeking the production of certain documents held by the judgment defendant such as banking statements and tax returns; and depositions. Depositions can be particularly useful as they allow us to ask follow up questions and pursue different areas in more detail as they open up during the course of the deposition.
Bank garnishments are used to sue third parties who are in possession of property belonging to the judgment defendant. This property most commonly consists of checking accounts. Bank garnishments are initiated by filing a new lawsuit in the same court in which the underlying judgment was rendered and serving the bank as the garnishee. The vast majority of the time, a bank representative will call us after being served with a garnishment and advise if there are currently no open accounts in the name of the judgment defendant. In such cases, we will immediately file a dismissal of the garnishment because Texas law provides that if the bank hires an attorney and files an answer showing it is not holding any property of the judgment defendant, the plaintiff is liable for the bank’s attorney’s fees. Although this does present a slight risk, this is our preferred post judgment collection procedure.
Executions are used to foreclose on physical or real property owned by the judgment defendant. After the clerk prepares the writ of execution, we forward the writ to the sheriff or constable of the county in which the judgment defendant’s real property is located. If there is no real property, we will direct the sheriff or constable to the judgment defendant’s place of business. This can be a very effective tool, especially if the judgment defendant is providing products or services that it does not want interrupted.
Turnover orders are used to obtain property that cannot be readily executed upon. If, for example, the judgment defendant owns a registered commercial vehicle but is hiding it, we can apply for turnover relief ordering the judgment defendant to make available the asset.