District Justice Judgments

We’ve had a number of calls over the last few weeks from people who think they are being sued with a new lawsuit.  As the consultation goes on, the client inevitably says “I was sued for this claim years ago”.  At that point, we need to take a look at the docket and at the court paperwork.  What we’ve seen happening in abundance lately is that creditors are transferring judgments from the District Justice (Magistrate) level to the Court of Common Pleas.  These are not “new” lawsuits…they are simply a transfer of the judgment from one court to another.

Why does the creditor do this?  Well, it could happen for a few different reasons.  When a judgment is entered at the District Justice level it is valid for 5 years from the date of the judgment.  If they creditor wants the judgment to continue on, it must transfer the judgment to the Court of Common Pleas.  If this occurs, then the judgment is valid for 20 years.  Frankly, all creditors should do this, that’s the point of a judgment.  The other reason that the creditor might transfer the judgment to the higher court is to attempt execution proceedings.  If the judgment is transferred to the higher court, the creditor can then attempt to freeze a bank account or levy on personal property and other assets.  When a judgment is transferred to the higher court, the debtor (YOU) should be very concerned.  At any time, without further notice, your bank account could potentially be garnished.

The obvious question is, can anything be done about this?  Sometimes…  if the creditor makes a mistake.   As these judgments are only valid for five years, the creditor must transfer the judgment up to the higher court before that 5 year term expires.  We’ve had several instances lately where the creditor waited too long to make the transfer.  We have one where the creditor missed the deadline by a single day, and we’ve had others where the deadline was missed by a month or two.  In these instances, we can file a motion to strike the judgment.  If the court grants our motion, the judgment is gone, the case is over, and you live happily ever after.  Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you’ve had what appears to be a new lawsuit issued to you.   We’re available from 9-5 weekdays at 412-348-8600.

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