I Won a Judgment - Now What?

One incredibly important issue in civil litigation that many lay-people do not properly understand is the importance of being able to collect from the other side.  To be honest, some lawyers do not adequately understand the complexities of how one actually goes about turning that piece of paper known as a “judgment” into real dollars and cents.

Good lawyers know the holy “trifecta” that you need to have a good case; liability, damages, and the ability to recover.  In other words, you need to be able to prove to a judge or jury that the other side is liable, under the applicable law and facts, for your “injury” (be that physical, mental, monetary, or otherwise).  You then need to be able to prove to the judge or jury that your injury is capable of being converted into a dollar figure, and that the law provides a way to recover for that injury.  Lastly, assuming the judge or jury finds in your favor, you need to be able to collect on the judgment you win.

What many lay-people do not understand is that the last factor, collecting, can at times involve as much work as winning a trial.  Once you have “won” a judgment against the opposing party, you need to be able to collect on it.  Factors such as bankruptcy, and defendants with no assets, or those who suddenly transfer their assets to another individual, all complicate this process.  It is prudent to take this consideration into account from the moment legal action is contemplated.

As an example of how this issue plays out in the real world, plaintiffs from a class action lawsuit litigated in Ecuador won an approximately $18,000,000,000.00 judgment against Chevron in 2011.  They are currently in the process of trying to recover on that judgment, which Chevron is contesting as fraudulent.  This is the largest judgment ever won in an environmental lawsuit, yet thus far the plaintiffs have recovered nothing.

In California, the law provides many procedures to recover on a judgment, from a “till tap” in which someone actually takes money out of a businesses’ cash register or as contained on the premises, to a sweep of bank accounts.  There are also pre-trial procedures which can help seize assets pending a trial.  If you have a question on recovering on a judgment, or opposing recovery, our firm has experience and knowledge on these issues.  We can also help you plan properly before serious legal action is taken.  Do not hesitate to contact as at (916) 565-8161 or visit our Sacramento Attorney website.

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