Judgment Recovery Case Study: Hot Diggity 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 Campbell’s flower beds. Did someone bury a bone under there? Maybe it was the fertilizer… we’ll just never know. Unfortunately, Mr. Campbell had just spent thousands of dollars for professional landscaping and design. Needless to say,  when Mr. Bennett made it clear that he wasn’t inclined to pay for his dog’s tip-toe through the tulips, Mr. Campbell took Mr. Bennett to court to sue for compensation. A judgment was awarded to Mr. Campbell for $6,000.00.

CAMPBELL 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, which was six years after it was awarded. We negotiated that I would enforce the judgment, keeping half of what I collected, and send the other half to Mr. Campbell as payment for the judgment. If you’re interested in the marketing process, you can read my 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. Campbell for a signature, I included a ‘Debtor Profile Worksheet’ – which is a tool I use to find out any and all information Mr. Campbell may have about Mr. Bennett (the judgment debtor). In this particular case, I received nothing more from Mr. Campbell other than Mr. Bennett’s name and old mailing 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 use a credit header report 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 in the discharge of debts. Bennett hadn’t filed any bankruptcy proceedings, so after that, I was good to go.

Since I always try to 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 profiles – 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. This isn’t the same thing as a credit header report… It reveals much more information about the debtor, including credit history, any collections, and often employment information.

The consumer 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:

Credit Header Report:  $1.50
Bankruptcy Check:  $0.15
Consumer Credit Report: $15.00
Writ of Execution: $15.00
Wage Garnishment Fee: $25.00

TOTAL:  $56.65

My wage garnishment went off without a hitch. Every time Bennett was paid by his employer, I was also mailed a check for 25% of his disposable income. Because I was receiving checks every week (and these tend to pile up when you have 15 or 20 garnishments from different cases going at one time), I opted to send Mr. Campbell, the original judgment holder, quarterly payments – simply to avoid any 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.

15 thoughts on “Judgment Recovery Case Study: Hot Diggity Dog

    • 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

  1. 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.

    • Hi Max,

      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

  2. 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

  3. I live in SC and I’m almost sure that entities other than hospitals child support, and tax levys aren’t allowed to garnish employee wages? Do you know for sure which states allow wage garnishments for judgement(s)?
    If you were unable to garnish the wages would you have then proceeded to the bank account step or would you have proceeded in a totally different direction all together?

    • There are, indeed, a few states that only permit wage garnishments in very specific circumstances, such as child support, back taxes, student loans and the like (it varies). Each state has its own unique ‘quirks’ and South Carolina is no exception. Even though you aren’t permitted to garnish the wages of a debtor to enforce a civil judgment, the income is still fair game once it has been deposited into the judgment debtor’s bank account. For this reason, many people will use a series of good collection letters, along with many of the other tools in the judgment recovery toolbox. You are still permitted to place a lien against the debtor that will attach to property, and you are also permitted to seize bank accounts and other numerous remedies to enforce a judgment. As an alternative, you can also consider shifting your marketing strategy to target commercial businesses that may have several judgments to assign, and continue to assign on a routine basis (property managers, car lots, contractors/contractor suppliers, jewelers, medical offices, etc.). There are NO limitations regarding enforcing judgments that have been awarded against businesses.

      Something else to consider, there is certainly nothing to prevent you from recovering judgments in an state outside of where you are physically located. The only issue you’ll be facing by working in other states is that you’ll need to become familiar with the forms and procedures in that state – they’ll vary slightly. Your membership with SJR also includes access to the SJR State-By-State Civil Research Guide that will provide you with state specific judgment enforcement information for each state.

      You’ll find that most courts will accept mailed or faxed filings. Also, many courts are coming online and making remote case file information available. The SJR Online Access Guide, with direct links to those courts offering access is also available on the SJR Member Association website. Additionally, if you needed to, you could work with a process server in the state where the court is located, the fee is reimbursable. Or you could get in touch with another judgment recovery course member in that area through the use of the member Network Directory, which is located on the SJR Member Association website.

      Regards,

      Christina

  4. Christina,
    Love these case studies. I live in CA and I have a $20,000 judgment on an evicted tenant from my rental home in Tennessee. I’m know the tenant moved back home to Illinois. How do I find someone to help me? And what state do they have to be doing business in?

    • If a judgment has been awarded in one state, but the judgment debtor has moved (or has assets in) another state, generally in order to enforce it you’d need to domesticate the judgment to a court in the new state. When the judgment has been domesticated, the court in the new state can then grant authority for enforcement procedures to issue from that court. It’s a simple process, involving a couple of forms and typically a 30 day waiting period.

      If that’s not something you think you’d want to tackle by yourself, you could always assign the judgment to a judgment recovery professional. Since the debtor is likely in Illinois, you’d probably want to seek assistance from an active JR company in Illinois. We do provide free judgment referrals to our active SJR Association Members. If you’d like to request someone to contact you for a consultation, feel free to use our online Judgment Referral form. There’s no obligation: https://sjrmemberwebsite.wildapricot.org/referral

      Regards,

      Christina

  5. Wow! I love your detailed responses to the questions. I love it!
    I have always wanted to go into business collecting judgments. I have tried a few times, but I get discouraged easily. Or did. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I want to do this again. I love solving problems and investigating cases, but I recently moved to TN and I have no idea how they do things.
    I did start the business start-up process, but I’m not good with the marketing aspect of it.

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