I won a judgment; now how do I collect?
Waranch & Nunn can assist in the difficult task of post-judgment collection through the use of aggressive post-judgment discovery, asset searches, and seeking enforcement remedies from the Court. Once you or your company obtains a judgment against a person or company, if that judgment debtor fails to pay, you are legally entitled to a host of remedies to, as one of my clients put it, “make their life miserable until they pay me.” Texas law and the Texas constitution provide protections for debtors. Without going into great detail here, understand that you cannot take a debtor’s primary residence, primary vehicle, and certain of their personal property items (like wedding rings or firearms) to satisfy your judgment. However, subject to those restrictions, you could potentially be entitled to multiple remedies if your judgment is not paid.
Those remedies include:
- Abstracting the judgment – if the judgment debtor owns non-exempt real property like a second home or piece of commercial property, the Texas Property Code allows you to abstract the judgment and place a lien on their real property. This will prevent the debtor from selling their property as the lien will cloud their title. It lasts for ten years and can be refiled.
- Writ of execution – after the judgment of the court becomes legally finalized and unappealable, the judgment creditor (you!) can request a writ of execution. A writ of execution allows a constable to seize non-exempt property, sell it auction, and the proceeds go to satisfy your judgment. Merely the threat of execution is often sufficient to get the debtor to pay or negotiate.
- Writ of garnishment – if a judgment debtor has limited or no non-exempt property, a writ of garnishment may be the best remedy. If you know where your debtor has a bank account (from, for example, a cancelled check) you may be able to obtain a writ from the court to force the bank to give you the money. This is often an excellent option for non-cooperative judgment debtors who do not have substantial non-exempt property but do have regular income from wages. Banks are usually very responsive and quick to process a valid garnishment order, so this is an attractive option if it applies to your situation.
If you or your firm has won a judgment but are having difficulty collecting from the judgment debtor, call Waranch & Nunn to set up a free consultation and discuss your options for collection.