Congratulations, you have now won your case against the defendant and were awarded a judgment. Oftentimes people assume that the hard work is over and money will just flow into their hands. However, while the case may be over, you still have to collect on the hard fought judgment. Usually many defendants will not pay up until they are forced to do so. If you happen to be one of the few people who have a defendant who pays without any effort on your part, you are in luck. For the rest of you, here are some tips on how to collect on a judgment.
First, and most importantly, if you do not already know, it is crucial to determine what assets the debtor has. The easiest method to accomplish this is to request a judgment debtor’s examination by getting an Order to Appear for Examination, commonly known as an OEX. A judgment debtor’s exam is what the name implies, an examination of the losing party, the debtor, to ascertain the debtor’s assets. In order to compel the defendant to appear, you must get a court order. When you get the OEX a time will be set for you and the defendant to appear in court. At that examination you will be able to ask the debtor about the debtor’s assets, bank accounts, and property. If the debtor does not appear for the OEX you can request that the judge issue a bench warrant against the debtor for failing to appear.
Second, you may be able to examine a third party if you can demonstrate that the third party has property belonging to the debtor or owes the debtor more than $250. Oftentimes people will seek to examine the spouse of the debtor in order to garner more information.
Once you have gathered information about the debtor’s assets, there are several different ways to collect. Previously Simon wrote an insightful article (found here) on collecting a judgment through a bank levy. Two additional methods that are useful for corporate defendants or defendants with a small business are a “till tap” or a “sheriff’s keeper”.
A till tap is similar to levying a bank account except that the source of payment is the debtor’s cash register. In order to perform a till tap, you will need to receive a writ of execution and deliver the writ to the sheriff. The sheriff will then attempt to collect the judgment from the cash register of the judgment debtor.
Alternatively, if there is not enough money in the cash register, a keeper, usually a sheriff, can be retained to visit the debtor’s business and remain there until enough money is collected to pay the judgment or until the business closes for the day.
At Brewer Offord & Pedersen LLP, we have had substantial experience in collecting on judgments. If you have questions regarding the collection of a judgment, we would be happy to help. We can be reached at (650) 327-2900 or on the web at www.brewerfirm.com.