Friday, February 1, 2013

Word of the Month for February 2013: Collections

Collecting on a judgment is harder than winning the case
I can't count the number of people who come into our law library looking to sue someone.  Someone slipped on a banana peal and was suing a supermarket.  Someone breached a contract.  Someone scammed an old couple out of their retirement nest egg.  Someone rammed into a new car.  Someone's kid beat up another person's kid at school.  Lots and lots of cases.  The problem is that 99.999% of the potential plaintiffs (i.e. the people who file the lawsuit) don't realize is that merely suing someone is not the end of their troubles.  Nope.  The trouble starts when they win their lawsuit.  It is the conclusion of the lawsuit that brings us our word of the month.

The word of this month is COLLECTIONS.  I remember years ago when I was working as a clerk for an area attorney.  We would win lawsuit after lawsuit but we could never collect because the defendants were often destitute deadbeats, or bankrupt businesses, or guys who owed money on spousal/child support.  We could never catch a break - until this one case which we won against a prominent local restaurant supplier and the best part was that
Winning is only half the battle
they had money.  Lots and lots of it.  We just had to get at it.

Back then, as a clerk for a lawyer, I was not the prominent, infinitely knowledgeable, mind-blowing law Librarian you see before you now.  No, I was a lowly law clerk struggling to learn the business of law.  What I did know is that I could go to my local county law library for help on darn near any topic imaginable.  So, with that bit of knowledge, I asked my local county law Librarian what resources they had on collections and he suggested I take a look at California Practice Guide: Enforcing Judgments and Debts (West), Debt Collection Practice in California (CEB), How to Collect when you win in a Lawsuit (Nolo Press), American Jurisprudence, 2d (look in the index under Executions and Enforcement of Judgments) (West), Collection Actions (NCLC), and AmJur Proof of Facts (look in the index under Collection of Debt) (West).

Yep, I may not have always been a wizened law Librarian but I've always known that I could rely on my friendly neighborhood law Librarian to help direct me to the right path (and now, you know it, too).