For most people, it can be very scary when a lawsuit is filed against them. When someone finds out they are being sued, they may not know exactly what that means or what will happen if a judgment is entered against them, especially one directing them to pay money.
One of the first questions that might pop into their mind is whether the person or business that filed a suit against them (legally known as the “plaintiff”) can take their house if they win. This is especially concerning since, for many Pennsylvanians, their home is the most valuable and important asset that they own.
This article will explain what happens when a judgment is entered against a defendant (in other words, the person being sued) and how that may affect the defendant’s ownership interest in their home.
What does it mean when a judgment is entered against the defendant?
A judgment is an award by the court granting a plaintiff some sort of relief against a defendant. A judgment is typically a court order directing a defendant to pay a plaintiff a sum of money.
Before a plaintiff can even attempt to collect from a defendant’s assets, they must first obtain a judgment against the defendant. Without a judgment, a plaintiff does not have the authority to take any property owned by the defendant. The plaintiff must win the lawsuit first.
In general, a plaintiff can only obtain a judgment against a defendant after one of the following things occurs:
- a plaintiff wins the lawsuit after a trial;
- the parties agree to a settlement that will be entered as a final judgment; or
- the defendant fails to respond to the lawsuit and a default judgment is entered against them.
When a judgment is entered for any of the reasons listed above, it gives the plaintiff the right to collect the amount of money ordered in the judgment.
Once a judgment is entered, the parties often negotiate a process and timeline for the defendant to settle the judgment through direct payment. In some cases, the defendant can’t or won’t agree to pay the judgment and the plaintiff has to take additional steps to get their money. This process is called “executing” the judgment.
A judgment may be executed in a variety of ways including seizing assets held in bank accounts and, in some cases, levying and selling the defendant’s real property, including their home.
Not All Real Estate Is Subject to Execution
Continue Reading A Judgment Has Been Entered Against Me. Is My House Safe From Judgment Creditors?