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Minnesota Case Illustrates

Minnesota Case Illustrates the Difficulty of Collecting Judgments

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A Minnesota civil case involving a man and his ex-wife resulted in a judgment in excess of $358,000. Though the ex-wife won case, she is experiencing what so many other judgment creditors experience: the difficulty of actually collecting what is owed.

Case details make it appear as though the woman’s ex-husband is doing everything he can to avoid paying. There may be legitimate reasons behind his actions. But chances are he is just using every legal means at his disposal to avoid living up to his legal responsibility.

Whether his actions amount to purposeful avoidance or not, Salt Lake City-based Judgment Collectors says such tactics are not unusual. Judgment debtors are not known for their cooperation. If anything, they seem to go out of their way to not cooperate.

A Standard Personal Injury Case

On the surface, the case between Judith and William Barnes looks like a standard personal injury case. William Barnes was found to have taken actions that resulted in his ex-wife’s injury. As such, the court awarded Judith Barnes:

  • $33,979.23 for treatment expenses
  • $75,000 for lost wages
  • $100,000 for past pain and suffering
  • $50,000 for future pain and suffering
  • $100,000 in punitive damages.

Strangely enough, the defendant did not retain an attorney to represent him. Moreover, he did not make an appearance during the trial. His lack of effort in defending himself led the court to enter a default judgment against him.

William Barnes then petitioned the court to overturn the judgment based on his belief that extenuating circumstances prevented him from being in court. When the court failed to honor his request, he went one step further and appealed that decision.

Tying Things Up in the Courts

Judgment collectors, be they specialized collection agencies or debtors and their attorneys, often find themselves battling debtors who know how to tie things up in the courts. Experienced debtors know that every court motion has built-in time constraints to allow the other side to respond. So the more motions one can file, the longer payment can be delayed.

What is the endgame? It’s hard to say in this particular case. As a rule, however, tying things up in the courts is generally combined with other strategies designed to avoid payment until a judgment reaches its statute of limitations.

The thinking is that continuous delays will wear down the creditor to the point of giving up. Unfortunately, debtors are more successful in this endeavor than they should be. The vast majority of judgments entered in U.S. courts are never collected because creditors simply give up.

Judgments Can Be Renewed

Even though judgments have statutes of limitations attached to them, they can be renewed in nearly every state. Creditors do not necessarily know this. Firms like Judgment Collectors do. So where a debtor might be able to succeed by stalling a creditor who doesn’t know the law, the chances of succeeding against a professional judgment collection firm are significantly lower.

Judith Barnes is entitled to more than $358,000 thanks to a judgment entered in her favor. Will she ever collect that money? It is hard to say. To date, William Barnes has failed to cooperate. Few people with experience in civil litigation would be surprised if he continued to stall indefinitely. It’s all part of the game.

Collecting civil judgments is rarely easy. As such, it is in the best interests of most judgment creditors to not even attempt in-house collection. It’s better just to pass the case on to an experience collection agency with the tools, knowledge, and perseverance to keep after the debtor until full payment is made.

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