Winning a court case and being awarded damages against a party does not necessarily mean that the court battle is over. Unless the losing party is willing to pay you on the judgment, you will have the obligation to collect it yourself. There are legal tools to help with the process, but there is no guarantee of success. The following is the general process on how to collect judgments in Minnesota:
First, you need to docket the judgment. “Docketing” a judgment happens when the prevailing party files what is called an “Affidavit of Identification Form” with the court. This is what begins the process in collecting the judgment and is considered official notice of all parties that a judgment has been entered.
After the judgment is docketed, you can seek help from the court in getting payment on the judgment and request a “Writ of Execution.” A “Writ of Execution” is a court order granted to put in force a judgment of possession obtained and allows a sheriff or other authority to take possession of property owned by the judgment debtor. However, to be able to use the writ of execution and take possession of the judgment debtor’s property, you have to know where the judgment debtor has their property and assets.
If you cannot find where the judgment debtor’s assets are, you can also request the court to send the judgment debtor an “Order for Disclosure” form. It is sent directly to the judgment debtor and asks them to fill out information on bank accounts and assets and to send the form to the creditor. The judgment debtor only has 10 days to fill out the form.
If the judgment debtor does not fill out the form, then the creditor can request from the court an “Order to Show Cause.” The court could then determine to have a hearing and ask the judgment debtor to attend and explain why they have chosen not to fill out the required form. If the judgment debtor does not decide to show up to the hearing, the judge could decide to issue a warrant for the judgment debtor’s arrest. If the judgment debtor is arrested, they are usually held until they fill out the form.
If you are able to get bank information, you can serve the Writ of Execution, along with other required forms, and garnish their bank accounts. You can also garnish wages (within some limitations) and debts that are owed to the judgment debtor, i.e. if the judgment debtor is a landlord and rent is due from their tenants.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Some funds of a judgment debtor are considered “exempt” and not subject to garnishment to satisfy a judgment. Minn. Stat.§ 510.02, 550.37.
- Judgments only last for 10 years from the date it was entered. It can be renewed by filing a new lawsuit against the judgment debtor. Minn. State. § 541.04.
- Once the judgment has been satisfied, you can obviously not continue to pursue the judgment.