A plaintiff in a liability case becomes a judgment creditor when a defendant is unable to pay all or some of a settlement or awarded damages. Some states permit recovery through wage garnishment or real estate and personal property liens. In Pennsylvania, creditors are limited to judgment liens against real property.
Judgment liens are in force for five years but can be renewed. The liens can be affected by a debtor's financial situation, including bankruptcy, although a judgment creditor retains the same rights as any other creditor to whom a debtor owes money.
The plaintiff in a Wilkes-Barre liability case was awarded more than $44,000 in a March trial. The compensation was for injuries the Exeter woman received in a 2008 auto accident. The defendant was unable to pay the award.
In July, the defendant in the
case received $140,000 in an unrelated wrongful death settlement. The Pittston woman's infant daughter died in a 2007 house fire which the lawsuit blamed on a landlord's negligence.
The victim, who never collected damages for the car crash, recently petitioned a court to order the defendant-debtor to pay the owed judgment. In other words, the court was asked to ensure that the wrongful death settlement would be used to pay the debt to the car accident plaintiff.
The parents of the child who died rightfully earned the settlement for their pain and suffering. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the settlement would cover the remaining debt from the earlier judgment.
A court will decide if the judgment creditor has a right to a portion the debtor's settlement proceeds. A hearing is set for late August to decide the matter.
Pennsylvania laws include methods of collection when defendants cannot or will not pay settlements and damages. Personal injury and wrongful death attorneys assist plaintiffs to make sure damages owed to them are paid in full.
Woman seeks payment of jury award out of settlement in child's death
" Sheena DeLazio, Jul. 24, 2013