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
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.
Please note: I am not an attorney, nor do I aspire to be one. If you need legal advice, please consult qualified legal counsel.