Judgments entered in a Court of Common Pleas or the Philadelphia Municipal Court are good for twenty (20) years. Under PA Statute, “[a]n execution against personal property must be issued within 20 years after the entry of the judgment upon which the execution is to be issued.” 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5529. In other words, the 20-year statutory period for execution against personal property prevents a judgment creditor from executing against personal property of the debtor more than 20 years after judgment was entered. Shearer v. Naftzinger, 747 A.2d 859, 560 Pa. 634, Sup.2000. The 20 year period has no bearing on the judgment creditor’s lien on real property. Id. (“the twenty-year statute of limitations in § 5529 regarding execution against personal property does not constitute a defense to a writ of revival”).
A judgment issued by a Magisterial District Court expires after 5 years if nothing is done. See PA Rule 402(A)(1)(b). Judgments entered in a Magisterial District Court may be entered in a Court of Common Pleas or the Philadelphia Municipal Court within five (5) years, which extends the life of the judgment to twenty (20) years. See PA Rule 402(D)(3).
When a lawsuit is filed, the Defendant must be “served”, so their due process rights are upheld. In Pennsylvania, this is usually done by a Sheriff or Constable. In Philadelphia, anyone over the age of eighteen (18) who is not a party to the lawsuit may also serve the Defendant. If service of process was not completed according to the Rules of Civil Procedure, a default judgment can be vacated, and all the work done to collect the judgment up could be for naught. This is because without valid service, the Court has no jurisdiction over the Defendant, and any judgment obtained is void ab initio (this is Latin for “from the beginning”).
Many people think a default judgment is set in stone and cannot be challenged. This is not always accurate. Courts disfavor default judgments, and prefer to hear disputes on their merits. That being said, there are rules in our judicial system. Ignoring a lawsuit is never a good idea. The consequence of not responding to a civil action is usually a default judgment for the relief requested in the Plaintiff’s Complaint. In Pennsylvania, judgments may be “opened” or set aside if the Defendant promptly appears and files a “Petition to Open Default Judgment”. This is basically where the Defendant says “my bad, I didn’t file an answer, but I want to defend this case on the merits and I wasn’t intentionally ignoring the Court’s process, so please give me my day in Court and open the judgment.”
In order to meet the standard, a party must act promptly upon learning of the judgment. This is usually less than a period of 30-45 days, but there is no fixed rule. The Defendant must also show he or she has a “meritorious defense” to the Plaintiff’s claims and demonstrate “excusable neglect” was the reason they didn’t appear in Court and file an appropriate responsive pleading. This could be the common “the dog ate my homework” excuse, or the Defendant might say “I didn’t know about the lawsuit under a letter arrived in the mail.” The bottom line is that each situation is different, but the more time goes by from entry of judgment, and the more notice the Defendant received, it’s more likely they will not be able to get relief from a default judgment.
Each state has different rules and procedures for setting aside or vacating a judgment, but the idea is the same: if you enforce a default judgment too quickly, the Defendant might have a case to set aside the judgment and send the case on the merits, and if the dollar amount is large enough, it’s very likely your debtor will retain counsel to challenge your judgment and try to set it aside.
You are the one who’s interacted with the Defendant before. You probably know who they are, where they live, their family situation, where they work, and ideally, some information about their finances. Do they have a lot of money? Do they maintain bank accounts or investment accounts? What do they drive? Do they own real estate? Are they a criminal? Do they have other unpaid judgments or pending lawsuits against them? Are they a scam artist? If your debtor is getting drunk at strip clubs all the time and posting this on social media, this is also a good data point to have.
When you call us and are peppered with a bunch of questions about the debtor, this is so we can paint a picture of who the debtor is and the prospects of recovery. If you don’t have a lot of useful information to share with us, that means we have less to go on when evaluating the possibility for a post-judgment recovery from the Defendant.
Know your judgment debtor! Any information you can give us is helpful. Make a list of any assets or businesses you believe your debtor owns. The more assets, the more likely it is that judgment collectors such as Final Verdict Solutions will be interested in your judgment!
Here are for frequent reasons why most judgments sell for pennies on the dollar:
Enforcing a judgment is a difficult prospect and the outcome is often uncertain. Final Verdict Solutions was founded to address this problem, and has been very successful in doing so. One thing you should know, however, is that judgments are not cash, and collectability solely depends on the debtor’s assets and income.
Yes, assuming you have a valid judgment. Let’s say the debtor resides in Florida, but your judgment was obtained in Pennsylvania. What do you do to go after the debtor’s assets out of state?
The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires sister states to recognize and enforce out of state judgments. Each state has procedures in place to “domesticate” a foreign judgment. When a judgment has been domesticated in accordance with all applicable local rules of civil procedure in the enforcing state, it is given full faith and credit and can be enforced in the same manner as a judgment originally issued out of that state (under this example, the State of Florida).
Many debtors believe there are “safe” from collection if they’re sued out of state. This is not the case.
If a debtor has bank accounts, it may be possible to levy or garnish those funds. If you’ve done business with your debtor before and you have a copy of a check they wrote you, this information is crucial. Real property is also an avenue for enforcement. When a debtor owns real estate in their name, and a judgment lien is recorded in the proper manner against their real property, they cannot sell or refinance the property without satisfying the amount due (plus interest and costs). A Title Company will typically notice the judgment after a title search and require the judgment to be paid at the time of closing.
A Judgment Enforcement company would be interested in your debtor’s employment? Do they work for a legitimate company? Do they own their own business? Other assets such as vehicles, boats, airplanes, cryptocurrency, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or any other assets that can be seized are also avenues for recovery.
It is difficult to collect from a broke person. The old adage “you can’t get blood from a stone” is usually true. A good judgment collection expert knows when to bide their time, and when to strike. If someone is broke, that doesn’t mean they’ll be broke in the future. In 5 or 10 years, maybe they’ll start a business, receive a college degree, obtain a six figure job, or even collect an inheritance from a loved one. Constant vigilance is the price we might continually pay.
Attorneys usually charge by the hour ($300+ per hour). Most attorneys don’t specialize in judgment collection or even pre-judgment debt collection. They’re trained to obtain judgments – but judgment enforcement is not often taught in law school. Very few lawyers are competent or experienced in navigating the judgment collection field. If you hire an attorney, you are not guaranteed a result, but you will almost certainly receive a bill for the attorney’s time and expenses. Often times, hiring an attorney is throwing “good money after bad”.
Should you choose to hire an attorney, make sure to research their qualifications and experience with these types of cases before deciding to pay them a hefty retainer. We believe the best course of action is to contact a judgment collection company if you have an uncollected judgment. Final Verdict Solutions will review your judgment free of charge. We do not charge out of pocket fees, expenses, or hourly rates.
You may not have the resources to wait for the judgment to be paid by the judgment debtor, and neither do most collection agencies. But some firms do have resources to pay you cash today and to wait for the judgment to be paid.
However, there’s a catch. The judgment collection company does not pay for the full amount of the judgment. It only pays you a part of your judgment — sometimes only a small fraction of the judgment amount. The judgment collection company needs to make a margin between the price it pays you and how much it eventually collects from the debtor.
The amount that you can sell your judgment for cash depends on the age of the debt, the amount of the debt, and the financial status of the debtor.
No. We are not attorneys and do not provide legal advice. If you need an attorney, you might try contacting your local Bar Association or Lawyer Referral Service.
Final Verdict Solutions is aggressive and effective when it comes to judgment recovery. We like to collect as much money as possible from our debtors, and we know how to do it. Our methods are refined and efficient. We will locate the debtor’s assets and legally levy them using the judicial process. With the force of law behind us, we can begin subpoenaing information about the debtor’s finances and income, to gain the information we need to recover the full amount due.
Some of the available asset recovery methods we use are: