Call Kurtis Investigates: How To Collect A Judgment When Someone Dies

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With their house gutted, and deadlines missed, Sacramento couple Celia and Daniel Green say they were forced to fire the contractor.

“There was no turning back at this point,” she said. “He was a liar and a thief.”

But they soon found out that sometimes winning a court case is just the start of the battle.

Celia says the contractor owed them $15,000, but they had to bite the bullet and took the case to small claims court. The judge ruled in the Green’s favor and awarded them the max of $7,500.

But nine years of trying to collect the judgment failed, and their old contractor died before paying up.

“Can’t get blood out of a turnip, and you can’t get blood out of a dead turnip,” she said.

How will they get their money?

Consumer attorney Stuart Talley says, “Sometimes that’s the hardest part of any lawsuit.”

Talley says after a judge awards you money; you can get a county marshal, seize bank accounts or garnish wages to attempt to get your money back. But he says the easiest way to collect if to file what’s known as an abstract of judgment with the county; which puts a lien on their property.

An Abstract of Judgment

“Once you have that lien, you’re very well protected,”  said Talley.

But because this guy is dead the Green now has to try and navigate the courts, to collect from his estate.

Fortunately for the couple, another contractor finished their house.

But Celia says she’s still angry, “My husband has long ago written this off, and he has told me, honey, it’s a fool’s errand, don’t bother, just let it go.”

Green says they did try and tap his bank accounts years ago, but he had no money. They also hired a collection agency but had no success.

Click here to see all the ways you can collect a judgment.

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