Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 19, 2017

Unpaid Wage Judgments

How Big a Problem is Unpaid Wage Judgments?

A Yuge problem ! (to channel Bernie Sanders)

While we don’t have the data to be certain, what research exists indicates that between 75% and 80% of all wage judgments are not even partially paid. Consider the following research:

“Of all the workers who won judgments in California between 2008 and 2011, only 17 percent collected any money, according to a joint study by the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Labor Center. The same study found that when workers did collect, they received an average of 15 cents on the dollar.” Karen Foshay, Aug. 1, 2016, Wage theft: Millions stolen, little recovered within the restaurant industry. http://curious.kcrw.com/2016/08/wage-theft

“Relying on Labor Commissioner data and court records, KCRW looked at 441 decisions and judgments filed against Los Angeles area restaurants between 2013 and 2016 and found $6.7 million awarded in unpaid wages, penalties and interest.

  • $412,000 has been collected.
    • $15,347 is the average judgment awarded
    • 75 percent of the judgments and decisions were unpaid
    • 13 workers have judgments for over $100,000. Four have received payments.”(Data from LA & Long Beach offices only.) Karen Foshay, Aug. 1, 2016, Wage theft: Millions stolen, little recovered within the restaurant industry. http://curious.kcrw.com/2016/08/wage-theft

A number of credible news outlets have pointed out that it is all too easy to form corporations in the United States and that this allows people to hide their identity and assets all too easily.  This means that it is crucial that someone obtaining a wage judgment name both the corporation and, if at all possible, the individuals running the corporation as a defendant.

While no one can promise that your judgment will be collected, we will use a variety of powerful databases and our knowledge of California’s judgment enforcement laws to maximize your chances of getting paid for your wage judgment. Call us today. Remember, We Don’t Get Paid until You Get Paid!

Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 10, 2012

Illegal Debt Collection

Can I get in trouble for trying to collect my debt?

The easiest answer this question is, “of course you can get in trouble if you’re a knucklehead.”  There are a few ways you can screw up debt collection in a way that actually creates more trouble for you:

Lying – Anyone can get in trouble for misrepresenting things to a court, or for lying to law enforcement officers. Lying to the debtor is trouble, too. For example, it is illegal (a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of up to $2500) to try to mislead someone who owes you money by sending them a document that looks like it comes from the court or another government agency when that document doesn’t. California Civil Code section 1788.16.

Violence – As tempting as it may be, don’t channel your inner Marsellus Wallace and hire someone with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch to get medieval on the debtor. That stuff works a lot better in the movies. Even threatening such behavior can get you in trouble.

Defamation – Calling out the debtor publicly can have consequences, depending on what you say. Laws against defamation apply to debt collection like they apply to everything else.

Special Cases

Even if you avoid breaking kneecaps and forging court documents, you might still run aground of the law.  State and federal law have rules and procedures that govern debt collection in certain situations.

Fair Debt Collections Act (FDCA) – People collecting debts which qualify as “consumer debt” may be subject to both California and federal fair debt collection practices act.  “Consumer debts” are debt taken on by natural persons (a natural person is a living, breathing one is opposed to a Corporation) and involving money or property or services used primarily for personal, family or household purposes. Violating the FDCAs may subject you to paying the other side attorney’s fees and substantial penalties.

Landlord/Tenant – The FDCAs and California’s tenant protection laws, protect tenants from certain collection methods by landlords.  If you are trying to collect owed rent, you should be very careful and should talk to a lawyer. Violating the laws which protect residential tenants can also subject you to having to pay the other side attorney’s fees and penalties.

Bankruptcy – If the person you are collecting from have declared bankruptcy, you are probably going to have to move your collection activity to bankruptcy court. Typically, the filing of bankruptcy, will create “automatic stay” from the federal bankruptcy court which prohibits collection activity from state court, or anywhere but the bankruptcy court. Violation of the automatic stay can get you in trouble.

Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 9, 2012

How to Place a Lein on a Home

Do you want to enforce your judgment by placing a lien on real property?

Getting a lien on someone’s home or other real property is usually a good first step in collecting your judgment.  However, it’s never easy, and in some cases it’s not even an option.  Here’ s some of what you need to know:

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Do you have a judgment against the person?  You need a judgment against the owner of the property to place a lien on it.  Just because you have a judgment against his Corporation or her LLC, does not mean you have a judgment against them.
  2. Is the property protected?  Sometimes, professional deadbeats will put their house in the trust to make it harder for the people they owe money to collect. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be impossible to put a lien on the house but it does make it harder.
  3. Where is the property?  In order to place a lien on real property (land), you need record an abstract of judgment in the office of the county recorder in the county where the property is located.
  4. Is your judgment from a different state?  If the judgment was issued by an out-of-state federal court you will need to register it in California by filing a certified copy of the judgment in a California federal district court. See 28 USC § 1963.  If it was issued by a different state court, you will need to domesticate it in California.  See Sister State Money Judgment Act, California Code of Civil Procedure § 1710 et seq.  After that, you can record the abstract of judgment.

How to Get the Lien:

Create an Abstract of Judgment – The abstract of judgment is a summary of the judgment, including the parties, the amount owed, and any applicable interest.

  • Use the EJ-001 – Be sure to use the proper California Judicial Council form for an abstract of judgment (EJ-001) and also to use the proper cover letter when filing in a county other than the one where the abstract was issued. A phone call to the County recorder’s office can save you a lot of time.
  • List the SSN – If you happen to know the judgment debtor’s Social Security number, be sure to listed in the abstract of judgment form in the appropriate place. The lien of abstract is voidable if you don’t list the Social Security number if you know the number or if it is “immediately accessible” to you.
  • List multiple names / aliases – if the judgment debtor is known by more than one name, you may need to file an affidavit of identity to add those additional names. This is not, however, a procedure that allows you to add additional judgment debtors.

Record the abstract of judgment – You need to record the abstract of judgment with the county recorder’s office in whichever county the property you seek is located.

Provide notice – Finally, you must give notice to the judgment creditor of the judgment lien. This is either done by the county recorder or by you. If you’re the one doing it, you can do it by having a process server personally deliver a copy or by mailing it registered or certified mail or through a procedure known as substitute service. You need to follow the statute to the letter and you need to file proof of service with the county recorder where you filed the abstract. Don’t assume the recorder will do this for you. Ask!

Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 7, 2012

Wage Judgment Collection

Do you have a judgment against your employer?

The Labor Commissioner’s Office will help you obtain a judgment against an employer for unpaid wages.  However, it will not help you collect that judgment.

Sleazy employers who don’t pay wages to employees often don’t pay judgments against them, either.  And, unfortunately, sometimes collecting those judgments is more difficult than getting the judgment in the first place!

However, there is a silver lining.  An employee can collect attorney’s fees and other costs incurred in collecting a wage judgment. California Labor Code § 1194.3

So, if you have a wage judgment you need to collect on, you can hire an attorney and know that any fees he or she racks up will have to be paid not by you but by the employer who caused all this trouble in the first place!

If you need an attorney to help you collect your wage judgment, contact us now.

Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 7, 2012

When Judgments Expire

Are you wondering how long a judgment lasts?

The short answer is 10 years from the date of the entry of judgment. California Code of Civil Procedure § 683.  There are some exceptions to this rule, but very few.

If 10 years is coming up, you want to make sure that you renew your judgment by filing an application for renewal with the court in which the judgment was entered. California Code of Civil Procedure § 683. 120.  You need to do this before the old judgment has its time run out.  Don’t wait for the last minute.

There is another good reason to renew your judgment: it is the only time you get to add accrued interest into the total amount of the judgment.  Interest on the judgment California is generous, 10% per year. California Civil Code § 3289.  However, the only time you get to compound the interest is when you renew the judgment.  The procedure is not terribly complex, but be sure to give yourself plenty of time or, better yet, contact us before the judgment expires.

Posted by: Collections Attorney | May 4, 2012

Can I Add Costs to My Judgment?

A judgment is for the amount the judge said, right?

WRONG.

You get interest too. California law allows you to get 10% simple interest per year on your judgment. California Code of Civil Procedure § 685.010.  Simple interest means you don’t get interest on top of your interest (except when you renew your judgment).

What else do you get?

California law allows a judgment creditor to recover “reasonable and necessary costs” (don’t get too excited, these are fairly limited) and also, attorney fees if the underlying judgment provide for an award of contractual attorney fees or where otherwise provided for by law. California Code of Civil Procedure § 685.040.  For example, California law allows an employee to recover their attorney fees when they have to hire a lawyer to enforce a wage judgment. California Labor Code § 1194.3.

Posted by: Collections Attorney | April 9, 2012

Call Us Now to Collect Your Judgment

Did you get a judgment from a court or an administrative entity, like the wage commissioner?  Great.

Now how do you get paid?

Getting a judgment is a good first step, but collecting on the judgments (getting paid) is complex, difficult work.  Though this blog is not a substitute for an actual attorney, we’ll try to provide you the information you need to start figuring out how to collect your judgment.

If you need help from an experienced attorney, contact us now.

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