What Happens When You Sue Someone for Consumer Fraud–And They Do Not Fight Back?
Consumers are often reluctant to take legal action against a business that has ripped them off, such as a home contractor, because they fear litigation will be a long and expensive process. While this is true in some cases, there are situations where the defendant business itself is in no position to contest a valid lawsuit. Indeed, it is entirely possible the business will offer no defense whatsoever, thereby prompting a judge to issue a default judgment in favor of the consumer.
Take this recent decision from a federal judge here in Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs in this case hired the defendant to perform home renovation work. What the plaintiffs did not know at the time was the defendant was not actually a licensed contractor in Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, the defendant not only failed to comply with this state’s legal requirements for home improvement contracts–it also failed to complete the work.
Naturally, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit. They alleged the defendant violated Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. The defendant failed to respond to the lawsuit. The court therefore entered a default judgment. Not only did the judge order the defendant to pay approximately $25,000 in damages, he also said the defendant must pay the plaintiff’s reasonable legal fees and court costs, which came to an additional $35,000 or so.
How to Collect a Judgment in a Fraud Case
Now you might be wondering, “What happens after I get a default judgment?” The truth is that simply having a judgment does not guarantee you will get paid. A judgment is simply a piece of paper that declares you are entitled to a certain sum of money.
The first step is to file a copy of the judgment in any Pennsylvania county where you believe the defendant may own real estate. This places an automatic lien against any real property in that county. So if the defendant tries to sell the property later, they must first pay your judgment. And since a lien is typically valid for 20 years in Pennsylvania, you may be able to collect on a judgment even years after the fact.
The next step you can take is filing a “writ of execution.” This is a legal document authorizing the sheriff of a given county to collect a judgment on your behalf. The sheriff can seize the defendant’s bank accounts or sell its personal assets, such as motor vehicles, in order to pay your judgment. In some cases, you can even compel the sheriff to forcibly sell the defendant’s real property.
Speak with a Philadelphia Home Contractor Fraud Lawyer Today
Even in a relatively simple fraud case where the defendant does not bother to respond, it is still important to work with an experienced Philadelphia consumer lawyer to help guide you through the process. Contact Louis S. Schwartz at CONSUMERLAWPA.com today to schedule a free consultation.