Enforcing Judgments for Money Damages

After a civil lawsuit has been won in court, the process of collecting an award of money damages is not yet over. Sometimes the losing party in a lawsuit will pay the award right away, but often, collecting an award of money damages is not that simple. Connecticut courts will not follow up on their own initiative after a lawsuit to make sure that the money damages awarded to a winning party are paid by the other party; as such, the winner of a lawsuit needs to pursue the matter on his own. After an award has been made by a judge, the winner of the lawsuit becomes the “judgment creditor” and the party owing money becomes the “judgment debtor.” A money judgment may be enforced against any asset of the judgment debtor that is not otherwise exempt by law. The amount that can be recovered includes the judgment itself and the costs incurred in obtaining the judgment.
When the judgment debtor is a natural person, the judgment creditor can petition the court for an order setting up an installment payment plan to satisfy the judgment. If the judgment debtor does not make the court ordered payments, the judgment creditor may apply to the court to have a portion of the judgment debtor’s wages taken until the debt is satisfied.
Another option available to a judgment creditor is to request that the court clerk “issue an execution” to collect the judgment. This is a request to grant a judgment creditor permission to hire a state marshal to “execute” the judgment for him. The marshal will present legal documents to a financial institution or other person holding some of the judgment debtor’s assets, ordering that money be paid to the marshal. The marshal will then turn the money over to the creditor, satisfying the debt. However, before this is done, a judgment creditor needs to find out what assets a judgment debtor has that can be usedto satisfy his debt. This process involves submitting a formal set of questions, called “interrogatories”, to the judgment debtor. The court does not get involved in this aspect of the post-judgment process unless the judgment debtor objects to, or refuses to answer, the questions asked. In that case, the judgment creditor has to go back to the court for help and permission to engage in additional discovery of information about the judgment debtor’s assets. This discovery process can get as extensive as the full discovery process that parties are allowed in any civil action, and if those who are asked to participate in discovery do not cooperate, they can be held in contempt of court and may be ordered to pay penalties.
A judgment lien is another option that gives the creditor the right to be paid a certain amount of money from proceeds from the sale of the debtor’s property. In Connecticut, a judgment lien can be attached to the debtor’s real property, including a house, condo, or land, or to the debtor’s personal property, things like antiques, art, jewelry, and other collectibles and valuables. However, to protect the debtor, there are strict rules on how and when the liens can be recorded and what types of property are exempt.
It is also important to note that a judgment creditor himself may run afoul of the law if he attempts to collect the debt by fraudulent, harassing or other illegal means. Both state and federal laws regulate debt collection activities and could result in significant fines and costs if not followed.
The process of enforcing a judgment can be complicated and drawn out. To collect an award of money damages as quickly and efficiently as possible, please call our firm today, and we will be happy to advise you on the specifics of your case.

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