After making a claim and completing all of the necessary procedural steps that go along with pursuing it, and after finally obtaining judgment, a Plaintiff may expect to be promptly paid by his, her or its debtor(s). Unfortunately, that payment is not always made willingly. While obtaining judgment may end the dispute over liability, it may also be just the first step in realizing any monetary relief. The reason: judgments are not guarantees of payment, but simply orders that something is owing.
In order to enforce a judgment, a debtor must have money, debts owing to him, her or it, or assets available for seizure and sale. There are preliminary inquiries that can be made to assess the likelihood of one’s ability to enforce a judgment, the results of which can shed light on the potential value of the enforcement mechanisms provided for by the legal system, which include seizure and sale, and garnishment.For example, even if the debtor does not have the money to satisfy the judgment in his, her or its own pockets, a judgment creditor (that is, a party who has obtained judgment) is entitled to pursue those funds from parties who owe, or who will at some later date owe, money to the debtor, such as banking institutions or employers. Similarly, if a debtor does not have the money but has property, a judgment creditor is entitled to make a claim to that property and, in certain cases, demand its immediate sale.That being said, there is also potential value in even unenforceable judgments which should not be overlooked, particularly for active businesses. Pursuing an action through to judgment can, and often does, act as a general deterrent by sending a clear message to current and potential debtors of that Plaintiff that non-payment will not be overlooked, and that the Plaintiff will not be dissuaded from seeking judgment – including interest and costs – from non-paying parties.Prior to making any claim, consideration should be given by the potential Plaintiff as to whether he, she or it wants to take an economic or principled approach to litigation; if the purpose of the claim is limited to the former, proper consideration should be given in advance of starting the proceeding as to whether the goal of enforcement is realistically obtainable.