How Do I Enforce a Judgment Against an Out-of-State Defendant?

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I won a small claims case against my former landlord by default. I live in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, which was also were the rental was located. My former landlord lives in NY. I was unable to have my former landlord served with my court ordered warrant because he lives in another state. Now the court has had me return the warrant and has issued me an Execution on Money Judgment- to evidently hold and sell off his property to pay off the debt. Now no one can tell me how to have the execution delivered to the defendant. Barnstable County said I needed to have a NY sheriff serve the defendant, but NY says it needs to be logged in somewhere and really I need to go back to Barnstable to figure out how to have this execution served. I’m at a stone wall and no one knows how to proceed. Any help you could give me would be appreciated. Thank you.

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

You may need some assistance in getting this judgment enforced. Because you are dealing with a defendant who is in a different state, you may need to get a “sister-state judgment” in New York before the Sheriff there can enforce anything.

While sister-state judgments are usually just a matter of procedure (the Constitution requires “full faith and credit” be given to the actions of other states’ courts), the procedure can be tricky, for example in terms of how you prove to state A that state B in fact issued this judgment. In the worst-case scenario, this might involve having separate attorneys in each state, though I would start with an attorney in New York and see if you can get away without one at home. The good news is that the costs of enforcing a judgment can usually be added to the judgment itself when you recover from the defendant. And in fact, that may motivate the defendant to just pay up (rather than pay more later).



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Author: House Attorney