Pursuing a Judgment: Debtor’s Exam

Most lawyers think obtaining a good trial result is the hard part, but in some cases there is a whole additional chapter to achieving justice and compensation for injured clients.  Once the trial result becomes a judgment, and the judgment is recorded against the defendant, the next step is personally serving the judgment debtor with notice of a debtor’s exam.  This procedure allows the creditor (the plaintiff) to put the debtor (the defendant) under oath, and inquire about any assets the debtor has that can satisfy the judgment.

A current Janssen Malloy LLP case illustrates the process.  We obtained a substantial judgment against defendant dog owners whose dog escaped and seriously injured our client, who suffered nerve damage, permanent scarring and functional limitations from the dog’s attack.  The defendants failed to respond when served with the lawsuit, and their default was entered.  We thereafter proceeded to the damages prove up stage in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and obtained a $3 million judgment.  After the judgment was recorded, we sought and obtained court orders for the defendants to appear for debtor examinations, to uncover their assets available to satisfy the judgment.

After we personally served one defendant debtor, he failed to appear for his debtor’s exam.  The court immediately issued a bench warrant for his arrest for contempt of court and failure to appear.  The next step will be the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department executing the arrest warrant.  The other judgment debtor (spouse of the defendant who failed to appear for the debtor’s exam) has been avoiding service of the court order to appear for her debtor’s exam, but we expect to shortly serve her as well. 

The above discussion demonstrates the tenacity required to pursue responsible defendants once a judgment is obtained, and the need for experienced trial counsel for injured plaintiffs.  The attorneys at Janssen Malloy LLP have the background and persistence to pursue justice for our clients, and to take all necessary steps for their protection.