What is a money judgment?

A money judgment is a court order that gives the plaintiff a sum of money for reasons such as unpaid rent, hospital bills, credit cards, and more. There are multiple types of money judgments including a money judgment following a breach of contract. Failure to pay a money judgment can result in a sheriff demanding payment or the seizure/selling of property. Learn more about money judgments here.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A money judgment is a court order that awards the plaintiff a sum of money. The award can be owed to the plaintiff for a variety of reasons. Some examples are unpaid rent, damages to a rental unit, money borrowed, hospital bills, credit cards, and money owed for repossessed vehicles. A money judgment can also include money owed for court costs and attorney’s fees.

Types of Money Judgments

As mentioned, most money judgments are awards of money granted to the plaintiff after a civil trial, if the defendant (judgment debtor) was found liable for some harm. There are other types of money judgments. One example is an award following a breach of contract action. For breach of contract, the non-breaching party will often be granted a money judgment instead of forcing the breaching party to fulfill the terms of the judgment, even if the contract was for services.

Personal injury cases are also a frequent source of money damages. In these cases, money damages are awarded due to negligence or an intentional harm such as assault and battery. In awarding money damages to the plaintiff in a personal injury case, the court will determine the amount of harm based on factors like medical bills, pain and suffering or loss of quality of life.

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Enforcement of a Money Judgment

Once a money judgment is awarded, it needs to be enforced. In most states, this is known as execution and begins with a writ of execution. If the defendant does not pay the judgment in court or soon after the proceeding, the judge can order service of this type of writ. An officer of the court, typically a sheriff, is given the authority to demand payment or seize and sell property to produce enough proceeds to satisfy the judgment.     

Because the majority of the process of collecting your money judgment depends on your knowledge of the defendant’s financial situation, another option is asking for an examination order. This order requires the person to return to court with documentation of their finances. This information will help you move forward with collecting your money judgment with a writ or you may pursue other options such as garnishing their wages or seizing funds in bank accounts.

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