An article in the September 20, 2009 Business section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer contains a good summary of the various remedies available to a creditor who has a judgment against you. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Sheryl Harris is discussing a $3,000 judgment obtained in a small claims court in Rocky River, Ohio; but the alternatives she outlines would be just as applicable to a $3 million judgment in Ohio and many other states.
Here are a few of the things a judgment creditor may be able to do:
- Garnish your wages
- Attach your bank accounts
- File a lien against your home and/or other real estate that you own
- Force a sale of your home and/or other real estate that you own
- Attach your personal property
There are of course limits on these remedies. A creditor can garnish only a certain percentage of your wages. As I have discussed in other posts, a small portion of the equity in your home will be protected in Ohio pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 2329.66 (while states such as Florida and Texas protect almost all the equity in your home). It may be possible for the creditor to seize the full amount of your bank accounts, up to the amount of the judgment against you. Transferring assets after a judgment has been entered (or even after a lawsuit has started) will likely be a prohibited fraudulent conveyance under Ohio Revised Code Section 1336.04 and similar statutes in other states.
The situation that columnist Sheryl Harris is writing about sounds like one in which we would all be rooting for the creditor. The creditor is trying to collect on a judgment against a roofing company that failed to make proper repairs. In many cases, however, I am representing a potential debtor. And in those situations I want to lawfully protect the assets of that person or entity to the greatest extent reasonably possible under applicable law.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer article is a good reminder that while debtors have many rights, so do creditors. Asset protection attorneys must have a thorough understanding of the rights of creditors. When an attorney is working to protect your assets, he or she must be knowledgeable about the various techniques that can be used to seize those assets.