In this case, Anderson Engineering, Inc. hired Giometti Design LLC as an independent contractor for website design services and ongoing IT management for a major company website. The contractor, Giometti Design had been paid in advance by Anderson Engineering, but the services were never provided. A judgment for $3,250.00 was awarded to Anderson Engineering, Inc. for breach of contract.
Giometti Design LLC turned out to be a one-man operation. According to the status on the Secretary of State’s website, his business was officially still active. At the time of my initial due diligence, I could find no evidence of any recent activity, and no telephone numbers or listings that were still in service.
I ruled out bankruptcy, as part of my normal pre-screening routine and obtained credit information, which showed several charge-offs and overdue debts, many of which appeared to be unpaid medical bills. It looked like this case might be going nowhere… and fast.
Fortunately, Anderson Engineering had been able to provide some bank account information based on details returned from the initial check the company had paid to Giometti Design. The returned check showed the bank where the check had been deposited. I determined that the account was still open, so I issued a writ of execution from the court, delivered that and my written instructions to the county sheriff, and the funds in the account were seized. Unfortunately, there was only around $350, give or take, in the account at the time it was seized.
I prepared to start digging around for more potential assets, like business equipment or other streams of income. It was then that Mr. Giometti contacted me. He told me he was permanently disabled, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which was why he hadn’t been able to complete the contracted work in the first place, and also why his business was no longer generating any profit. He offered to settle the judgment for another $1000 in addition to what I’d already seized in the bank account, which was all he could realistically spare. Since I’d already done my homework, I knew that he was being perfectly honest about that.
I am not a hard-hearted person. I know and understand that sometimes life throws a curve ball at you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Since I had no desire to try squeezing water from a rock, and I sympathized with his situation, I told him that if he could provide verification of his medical condition from a physician that I would consider his settlement offer. Shortly after that I received the verification I needed from his physician. Unfortunately, poor Mr. Giometti would never be returning to work, and his condition was steadily deteriorating.
As a matter of courtesy I contacted the CEO at Anderson Engineering to discuss the settlement offer. Although technically, whether or not a settlement offer was deemed acceptable, or appropriate was completely up to me, because my signed agreement documents clearly state that I have the power to negotiate or settle the judgment. Nevertheless, Mr. Anderson also felt that the settlement was the best way to go, considering the circumstances.
Mr. Giometti sent the promised settlement and I issued a satisfaction of the judgment and put the whole sorry business to bed.
I know that the first couple of case studies I wrote about had happy endings, but I suppose the moral of this particular case is that it would be unrealistic to expect to collect every single judgment that’s assigned to you (even though I did manage to collect a portion of the Giometti Design judgment).
There will inevitably be cases where the judgment debtor has either fallen off the face of the earth, or they may be squeaking out a living on exempt income sources like welfare or disability. Worse, they may be dealing with situations that make it impossible for them to pay, which I’m sure all of us can relate to in some way or another… So I guess the other point I’m trying to get across by sharing this case study is that as the judgment creditor you are in control of the enforcement of the judgment. It’s your own decision as to whether or not you pursue the enforcement of any judgment assigned to you.
Sometimes people ask me if I ‘feel bad’ about making judgment debtors pay up. I have never had any bad feelings or reservations about the nature of the service I am providing. The money that I recover was ordered by a court of law for the debtor to pay (usually for a good reason), and typically this is money came that out of judgment holder’s pocket. Is it fair to them when the debtor doesn’t pay? Some cases will involve collecting from financially challenged debtors – it just comes with the territory – but in those cases you can always offer an alternative to them to make a monthly payment that they feel they can afford or a settlement.
The bottom line is, I get many heartfelt thanks from satisfied customers even if I’m only able to collect a portion of the judgment. Many of them are amazed that I was able to collect anything at all! I suppose they figure that if they couldn’t collect it… no one could.
As always, I welcome your comments, questions or topic suggestions.
Sierra Judgment Recovery
SJR Strategic Research
Please note: I am not an attorney, nor do I aspire to be one. If you need legal advice, please consult qualified legal counsel.