How does the civil court ensure payment to a victorious plaintiff?

If I’m in smalls claims court because a deadbeat doesn’t live up to his agreement to pay me back and I win, then what? How is he forced to pay me? If he didn’t pay then, what will make him pay after he’s lost the lawsuit? How does the court ensure that the person pays up? What if they literally have no money to pay?

Asked on July 17, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This is when the term "hollow victory" comes in to play.  Once you win a court case you have to enter judgement against the defendant.  This is usually done by the clerk of the court and they include statutory interest, if applicable, and court fees.  The once it is reduced to a judgement you have to execute the judgement. This can be done through a Marshall for the City (levy on property such as bank accounts) or through their employer (garnishment) or filing a lien on their property if they own a home.  The good thing about the lien on property is that it is filed and is good for a good amount of time so it lingers on.  There are people who can help you collect.  Just be leery of scams.  Good luck. 

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