by: Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)
A wise colleague once told me that obtaining a judgment only gets you about 60% of the way home. Collecting on judgments is a sometimes overlooked, but almost always tedious and expensive process that makes me think my colleague was optimistic with his 60% projection. The Appellate Division's decision in Banc of America Leasing and Capital, LLC v. Flethcer-Thompson Inc., offers just one example of the many nuances of collection work that make it a minefield for the unwary.
In Banc of America, plaintiff obtained a judgment against several defendants in Michigan. It domesticated the judgment in New Jersey and obtained a bank levy against a joint account held by both defendant, Kurt Baur, and his wife, who was not a party to the lawsuit. After the sheriff served the writ and froze the assets in the account, plaintiff filed a turnover motion to have the funds turned over to satisfy a portion of the judgment. Baur and his wife opposed the motion, arguing that the funds in the account were the wife's personal property and derived from her pension, earnings, and tax refunds.
Before the trial court ruled on the motion, the parties entered into a consent order, under which defendants agreed to replace the "levied funds" with "replacement funds" in an equal amount. Once the "replacement funds" were deposited, plaintiff's counsel would release the "levied funds" back to defendants. In addition, defendants agreed to pay plaintiff $25,000 per quarter and $6,000 per month until the judgment was satisfied. Unfortunately, defendants defaulted on their obligations under the consent order, and plaintiff filed a new motion to turnover the "levied funds." Baur and his wife opposed the new motion on the same grounds as they had opposed the original motion. The trial court granted plaintiff's motion. In a three-sentence opinion, the court concluded that there was an agreement reached by the parties to avoid turnover, but defendants breached that agreement, therefore turnover was justified. Defendants appealed.
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