MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - I'm in the middle of producing an investigative report on a phony, unlicensed contractor. He's a real piece of work. He's definitely a piece of something.
His reach has left a wake of cheated consumers across two states. Many of them have sued the guy and won civil judgments -- one for five figures -- but each has yet to collect a single dime. It reminded me -- to remind you -- that when you win a civil court judgment, the check doesn't just come in the mail. Either your attorney or you must initiate the collection process, and even that isn't a guarantee that you'll get paid.
To initiate the process, you or your attorney will have to start at the court clerk's office. Its staff will offer these options, according to my experiences, legal sources and court officials. Each will cost you some sort of filing fee:
* WAGE GARNISHMENT. You file to garnish the guy's wages right out of his paycheck, assuming he has a job.
* PROPERTY LIEN/LEVY. File a lien to collect on the defendant's real estate or car. File a levy to go after a checking or savings account.
* CONDITIONAL JUDGMENT. If the jerk won't respond to a garnishment, lien or levy, you can file a conditional judgment with his employer. That will force the employer to put pressure on him to pay.
* SUBPOENA IN AID OF EXECUTION. If all else fails, file one of these. A subpoena in aid of execution will force the defendant back to court with his bank statements, checkbooks, account numbers, any assets that can be liquidated to collect your judgment. If the defendant doesn't show up, the judge may hold him in contempt. That could land him in jail.
In Tennessee, a civil judgment is good for ten years. A plaintiff can file to renew it for another decade, but only once. A consumer also has the option of filing a post-judgment. That would add ten percent interest to the balance of the judgment for every year the defendant doesn't pay.
Still, none of these are a guarantee that the defendant will pay up. You will have to decide whether the additional time and filing fees are worth the effort. It's definitely worth the effort with the bogus contractor I'm investigating. He's now living with his mommy. Hopefully very soon, you'll see what happens when we pay him a visit.