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How to Collect a Judgment Won in New York Civil Court

Posted on in Civil Litigation

Brooklyn civil litigation lawyer judgment collectionIf you have a breach of contract dispute with a customer, business partner, or employer involving a substantial sum of money, you can file a lawsuit against them in New York civil court. After winning your case, you will have a court order called a judgment specifying the total amount the defendant must pay you, which may include interest, legal fees, and court costs on top of your specific financial damages. But how do you actually enforce the judgment and get the defendant to pay you--especially since the defendant’s refusal to pay you was what forced you to file a lawsuit in the first place? New York law provides a number of possible remedies, including garnishment of wages, liens, and seizure of property. These options are defined in the Laws of New York, Civil Practice Law and Rules, Article 52 - Enforcement of Money Judgments.

Finding the Debtor’s Assets

The first challenge is to determine what income and assets the debtor has that can be used to satisfy the judgment. Your attorney can ask the court for an information subpoena to be served on the debtor, their employer, their bank, or any other person or business that may have information on the debtor’s income and assets. The information subpoena is a court order that must be answered. 

Once you have the debtor’s financial information, you will need to hire an enforcement officer, either a county deputy sheriff or an independent marshal, to execute any of these procedures.

5 Ways to Collect Money Won in NYC Civil Litigation

1. Attorney Letter Requesting Payment

The first step is to have your attorney send a letter to the judgment debtor demanding payment by a certain date. If payment is not made, you are then legally entitled to begin collection efforts.

2. Garnishment of Wages in New York

New York law refers to an order for wage garnishment as an income execution. The enforcement officer will serve the income execution order upon both the debtor and the debtor’s employer. This notifies the employer of the amount of money to be withheld from the employee’s wages. The law limits the percentage of a person’s wages that can be garnished, so only a portion of each debtor’s paycheck can be withheld by the employer and sent to you. 

3. Garnishment of Savings or Investment Accounts

If the debtor has a brokerage account or bank savings account, the enforcement officer will notify the bank or investment firm of the amount to be withdrawn to satisfy the court judgment. Note that retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s are exempt from garnishment.

4. Seizure of Vehicles or Other High-Value Assets

If the debtor owns a car of sufficient value, the enforcement officer has the authority to seize it and sell it. However, any outstanding loan on the car must be paid first out of the proceeds of the sale, and you will also have to pay towing and storage fees for the vehicle. 

Other high-value assets such as boats, recreational vehicles, gold and diamond jewelry, artwork, or antiques are also possible options for seizure. Note that state law prevents the seizure of certain types of assets, such as tools the debtor uses to earn a living (NY CVPL Section 5205).

5. Lien Against Real Estate

If the debtor owns real estate, a lien can be entered against the property. The property cannot be sold without paying off the lien. 

Manhattan Civil Litigation Lawyers 

A knowledgeable New York City civil litigation attorney can assist you in filing a breach of contract claim and obtaining money owed to you by a business partner, customer, or employer. Contact the law offices of Watford Jackson, PLLC at 855-WAT-JACK or 855-928-5225. 

Sources:

https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/civil/collectingjudg.shtml

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CVP/A52

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