What is Litigation? What is a Final Judgment?

Imagine this: you loan John Smith $1,000 and he gives you a written statement promising to repay the money (plus interest at 10%) in one year. At the end of one year he would owe you $1,100. The year ends and he refuse to repay you. The list of excuses is endless – he already paid you because he helped you when your car was broken down; he paid you in cash and you forgot; he lost his job and can’t pay you; he has been sick and can’t pay you – the list is endless.

When you reach the point that you cannot take it anymore and go to court to recover your money, the process of going to court is called litigation. In today’s world, litigation is very time consuming and costly. Much of today’s legal world involves something known as “pre-trial practice”. This means massive amounts of information including documents, sworn statements, documents from other sources and experts are consulted on an almost endless number of issues. At the end of the day after all the “pre-trial practice” is completed a judge or jury hears the case. At the conclusion, the Judge enters a “Final Judgment” in favor of one party or the other.

On the example we started with, if the judge found you were owed the money, you would receive a “Final Judgment” saying John Smith owes you $1,100. The power of the Final Judgment is that now you can use the government’s resources to help you collect your debt from John. You may be able to garnish John’s bank account (assuming he has one), garnish John’s paycheck, have a lien on John’s property, and ultimately use the Court and Sheriff to help you take John’s property to recover your $1,100. Notice, the Final Judgment is the document saying you are officially owed the money, not a guarantee of payment. The bigger question is my mind is not “can my client prevail in litigation and receive a Final Judgment,” the bigger question is “assuming my client prevails, will they be able to collect on their Final Judgment?”

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