I Have a Judgment. Now What?
Obtaining a favourable judgment, whether through your lawyer or as a self-represented litigant, is a key step towards successfully recovering money owed to you. However, effectively enforcing that judgment and collecting the judgment amount from the person you sued (called a “Judgment Debtor”) can often pose significant challenges of its own.
Initial Steps to Consider
If your judgment does not already arise from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and is from the Provincial Court or a dispute resolution body such as the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS), the Certificate of Judgment or binding Order must first be filed at the Court of Queen’s Bench. After this, a Writ of Enforcement can be filed with the Court and registered at the Personal Property Registry, allowing for various potential enforcement steps against the Judgment Debtor’s personal property (essentially any property other than land). The filed Writ also enables a search at the Land Titles Office for any real property (land) which may be owned by the Judgment Debtor in Alberta, and the ability to register the Writ on title to any such lands.
Prior to taking active enforcement steps, it is generally wise to attempt to assess what assets a Judgment Debtor may have, and whether such assets may be subject to claims or interests of other creditors in priority to your own. Alberta’s Civil Enforcement Regulation includes methods for compelling a Judgment Debtor to provide information on its financial status or to attend to be questioned under oath in that respect. Various searches, including through the Personal Property Registry and Land Titles Office, can also be helpful in gathering useful information.
Common Methods of Enforcement
The active enforcement process can take different methods, including:
- Garnishment of bank accounts, wages, or amounts payable to the Judgment Debtor;
- Seizure and sale of the Judgment Debtor’s personal property or assets; and
- Sale of lands owned by the Judgment Debtor
Some Strategic Considerations
Before incurring time and expense with enforcement efforts, it is generally prudent to attempt to first seek to obtain voluntary payment from the Judgment Debtor. Failing this, information gathered on the Judgment Debtor and its assets can help determine what active enforcement steps may be most feasible or productive.
If you are aware of the Judgment Debtor’s banking information, employer, or of others who owe monies to the Judgment Debtor, serving a Garnishee Summons can often present a quick and effective method to compel those funds to be paid into Court and then distributed to Writ holders.
If the Judgment Debtor owns valuable personal property (including vehicles, equipment, or otherwise), a Civil Enforcement Agency may be utilized to seize and sell such property for the benefit of creditors. The Civil Enforcement Regulation also sets out a process for the sale of land owned by the Judgment Debtor.
Be aware that not all property or assets of a Judgment Debtor may be subject to enforcement through writ proceedings. Some assets (for instance, RRSPs and income support payments) are exempt from seizure. Other assets (including many items considered to be basic necessities) are subject to exemptions from writ proceedings up to certain threshold amounts.
Where multiple parties have Writs registered against the Judgment Debtor, proceeds obtained through active enforcement steps will often be divided between them in accordance with the size of their judgments (with the instructing Writ holder behind the recovery being entitled to a certain additional portion). Accordingly, it is helpful to understand what other Writ holders may exist and what enforcement efforts they may already be engaged in.
Enforcement of a judgment is not always a straightforward process and can sometimes take various unexpected twists and turns. A lawyer can assist in effectively identifying and carrying out an enforcement strategy tailored to your situation.
For assistance seeking to obtain or enforce a judgment, feel free to contact Cynthia Okafor, a member of Swainson Miki Peskett’s experienced litigation team.
Material in this article is available for information purposes only and is a high level summary of the subject matter. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice. You should first obtain professional legal advice prior to taking any action on the basis of any information contained in this article. This article is copyrighted. For permission to reproduce this article, please email Swainson Miki Peskett LLP: email@example.com