By all accounts, this was a difficult debtor. The client had extended an unsecured line of credit to the debtor for use in his computer repair business. Since the time that credit had been granted, the debtor closed the business; got divorced; moved into a rental property; and was paying alimony and child support. Excellent homework revealed surprise hidden assets.
Obtaining judgment was the easy part, a default judgment was entered. My post judgment demands for payment were ignored. It was now time to enlist the sheriff to enforce my client’s judgment. After a telephone call with very cooperative ex-spouse, I knew which bank to send the sheriff to, armed with a writ of execution and garnishment.
The bank responded to my interrogatories stating that roughly $900.00 had been attached, along with a safe deposit box. I was curious. After a discussion with the client, it was decided that we would take further action and incur the costs associated with opening the safe deposit box.
Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 3110 sets forth the procedure that a judgment-credior must follow in order to access a safe deposit box. Specifically, Pa.R.C.P. 3110 provides that the court shall, upon petition of the plaintiff, grant a rule upon the defendant, the depository or custodian, and any person who has the right to open the safe deposit box, to show cause why the box should not be opened in the presence of the sheriff, by force if necessary, and the property of the defendant therein delivered to the sheriff. I prepared the necessary petition and noticed it for presentation to the court.
I was curious about the safe deposit box, but got excited when the debtor appeared in court the day I was to present the petition. The judge looked over the petition and issued a rule to show cause order after an explanation to the debtor that we were taking action to open the safe deposit box. Needless to say, I was approached by the debtor after the hearing.
Can we work out a payment plan? He explained that he didn’t have any money and that a large part of his paycheck was going to child support. How about a couple hundred a month? To which I responded, sure we can make a deal after we see what is in the safe deposit box.
After coordinating with the branch manager, the sheriff’s office, and the locksmith, it was time for the big reveal. I was prepared to see a passport, birth certificate, will, or other items of no concern to my client. I think everyone was shocked to find $16,800.00 in cash, which was applied to the judgment.
While there is still work to do on this $30k judgment, it certainly felt good to bring a significant amount of cash back to the office for the client.
For more related to this topic see Post-Judgment Discovery on the 5 Minute Legal Master Series.