Judgment Recovery Case Study: Hot Diggety Dog

People ask me what my day-to-day routine is like running my business – to which my response is always “No two days are ever the same!” But I also know that wrapping your head around a new concept like judgment recovery can be a little mysterious to anyone who isn’t actually in the field.

For me, personally, real-life examples have always been the best way to grasp what something’s all about – so following is the first of three case studies that I’ll be sending you. These are actual judgment recovery cases, though I’ve changed the names for privacy purposes. This first case involves a judgment that was awarded to an individual person, against another individual.

To summarize the events leading up to the judgment, John Bennett’s Saint Bernard dug out from under his fence and proceeded to completely destroy his neighbor, Tom Rosen’s flower beds. Did someone bury a bone under there? Maybe it was the fertilizer… we’ll just never know. Unfortunately, Mr. Rosen had just spent over $2,000 for professional landscaping and design. Needless to say, Mr. Rosen took Mr. Bennett to court to sue for compensation.

ROSEN VS. BENNETT

To get right to the heart of the matter, we’ll pick this up from the point where the judgment has already been assigned. If you’re interested in the marketing process, you can read my blog article about that here: Marketing a Judgment Recovery Business

These cases all start out in much the same way. When the documents to assign the judgment were mailed to Mr. Rosen for a signature, I included a ‘Debtor Profile Worksheet’ – which is a tool I use to find out any and all information Mr. Rosen may have about Bennett (the judgment debtor). In this particular case, I received nothing more from Mr. Rosen other than Bennett’s name and old address. That’s okay. That’s enough to start the pre-screening process.

Before I really got the ball rolling, I had to be sure I was pursuing the correct person and that I was aware of any potential aliases John Bennett was using. I also needed to get an idea about where I should start looking, so my first step was to locate Bennett’s social security number, date of birth, and a reasonably current address. Seriously – with the right tools and resources all you need is a name and address to nail down this information.

Next, as part of my due diligence, I checked to make sure that the judgment hadn’t been included in any bankruptcy discharge. This too, is a very basic and simple search. Bankruptcy filings can be a goldmine of information – so long as the actual debt wasn’t included. Bennett hadn’t filed any bankruptcy proceedings, so after that, I was good to go.

Since I always start with resources that are free – because let’s face it, free is good – I ‘Googled’ John Bennett to see if I could dig up anything floating around the Internet. You’d really be surprised at what’s out there… Newspaper articles, genealogies, LinkedIn, FaceBook – just to name a few.

Unfortunately, this time I didn’t hit pay dirt. So next I turned to free public records to see if Bennett currently owned any real estate or businesses. Nada. I wasn’t discouraged, though, it’s all just part of the process. It was time to pull out the big guns, which in this case, was a full consumer credit report.

The credit report revealed that Bennett was working at the local power plant. I called the plant’s Human Resource Department to make sure Mr. Bennett was still gainfully employed. Happily, he was still there. In which case I decided my best option was a wage garnishment. In my state, I am entitled to 25% of his paycheck.

To get it all started, I had the court issue a writ of execution. This is basically a document from the court that verifies facts about the case (how much the judgment is and when it was awarded, how much interest has accrued, who the parties are, etc.). It serves as my ‘permission’ from the court to garnish Bennett’s wages or to seize any other asset I can find. I completed and delivered all the paperwork for my garnishment and paid my filing and levying fees.

If you’re wondering about the costs I incurred in this case, they are as follows:

Social Security Number Locate:  $1.50
Bankruptcy Check:  $0.08
Writ of Execution: $7.00
Wage Garnishment Fee: $25.00

TOTAL:  $33.58

My wage garnishment went off without a hitch. Every time Bennett was paid by his employer, I was also mailed a check. Because I was receiving checks every week (and these tend to pile up when you have 15 or 20 going at one time), I opted to send Mr. Rosen quarterly payments – simply to avoid unnecessary bookkeeping gymnastics.

At this point, I could have invested a little more elbow grease to locate Mr. Bennett’s bank account and taken that too, but steady payments from garnishments are a great source of residual income. Now that I had that going, it was pretty much on auto-pilot, so I could free up my time and attention for other cases.

Next week I’ll send the second installment of this series; a case study involving an individual person that sued a company, and the details that led to that particular happy ending.

As usual, I welcome any comments or questions.

Warm Regards,

Christina

Christina Smiley
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.

16 thoughts on “Judgment Recovery Case Study: Hot Diggety Dog

  1. This is good, but what kind of percentage did you have to pay out to Mr. Rosen to allow him to turn over his judgement to you for collection? Were there any guarantees stipulated?

    • For this, and most of the judgments I take for assignment, I negotiated to keep half of whatever I was able to collect of the principal, as well as half of any accrued post-judgment interest.

      There are no guarantees stipulated in the assignment agreement, other than my promise to make payments if/when any money is collected within a certain time-frame, as well as to perform to the best of my ability.

      Regards,

      Christina

  2. I live in Texas and to my knowledge we don’t allow wage garnishment except in Child Support cases. What direction would you suggest we take?

    • It is true that Texas (as well as a couple of other states) does not allow the garnishment of wages for the enforcement of a civil judgment. Regardless of that we have many successful judgment recovery companies participating on our National Member Network in Texas. In fact, one of the most successful judgment recovery specialists I know is located in Houston!

      Really the only limitation is that you aren’t permitted to garnish the wages of a debtor unless you‘re enforcing child or spousal support, the income is still fair game once it has been deposited into the judgment debtor’s bank account.

      You are still permitted to place a lien against the debtor that will show up on their credit report and attach to property, and you are also permitted to seize bank accounts and other numerous remedies to enforce a judgment. There are NO limitations regarding enforcing judgments that have been awarded against businesses. Further, you have some pretty extraordinary subpoena power in Texas! Subpoenas are fantastic tools to get information.

      Regards,

      Christina

  3. i like this idea of options to get paid in partial vs seizing his account. thank you for this actual event. i will be joining this friday, i am convinced.

  4. I live in Illinois, there is no online database, how would be able to pull data in an easy fashion? Would I need to hand write the information or do you knwo os an easier way?

    • Actually, Illinois offers online access to civil case file information in several counties. As of the last time I updated the SJR Online Access Guide, Illinois offers access in the following counties: Adams, Bond, Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Coles, Cook, Crawford, Cumberland, DeWitt, Edgar, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Hamilton, Henry, Iroquois, Jackson, Jefferson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, LaSalle, Lawrence, Lee, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Marion, Mercer, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Ogle, Piatt, Pike, Pope, Richland, Rock Island, Shelby, Stephenson, Union, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, Whiteside, Williamson, and Woodford. This is definitely subject to change, though, as new databases are constantly coming online!

      Even if the county you live in doesn’t offer online access to case file information you’d still have several options at your disposal, including a weekly visit to the courthouse to review case files (plan on 1-2 hours, once a week). If that proves to be too labor intensive, there is certainly nothing to prevent you from recovering judgments in an area outside of where you are physically located. You’ll find that most courts will accept mailed or faxed filings.

      There are also fee-based databases available for this information, usually based on an annual flat rate access charge. Or, you could market your services specifically to businesses in your area that tend to have multiple judgments being awarded on a regular basis; or, you could use advertisements that have been included in the training materials to market your business.

      Regards,

      Christina

    • A very valid question! My apologies for not including this information in the case study…

      For this particular case, after the judgment holder initially contacted me I mailed documentation for a signature to assign the judgment. It took approximately a week’s time for the documents to mail back and forth. The initial due diligence and subsequent asset research took about 2 hours. Form preparation – about 10 minutes. Once the writ of execution was issued, and my garnishment papers delivered to the levying officer, it took approximately 30-35 days to receive the first payment.

      I received an average withholding payment of $240 every week. Since I was keeping half of whatever I was able to collect, my net was $120/week.

      This judgment was awarded for $6,000, but by the time all the dust settled and accounting for reimbursable court costs and accrued post-judgment interest, the total amount collected via the wage garnishment was $11,057.57.

      Regards,

      Christina

  5. Did you not have to pay for a credit report? How were you able to pull Mr. Bennett’s credit without his permission? Thanks

    • Hi Max,

      I did pay for a credit report in this case. It was $7.00. As for why I was able to pull it – once a judgment is assigned, the ownership is legally transferred from the original judgment holder to me – the assignee. I become the new owner of the judgment and the legal judgment creditor. As a judgment creditor, I have permissible purpose (as outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act) to obtain full disclosure in regard to my judgment debtor’s consumer credit information. I do not need any authorization from the judgment debtor to do this.

      Regards,

      Christina

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