If I have no assets, would I be considered “judgement proof” in small claims court?

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If I have no assets, would I be considered “judgement proof” in small claims court?

I’m going to be going to court for a small claims case (a bit more than $1,000) since I’m being sued by a debt collector. I currently don’t have a job or any assets. Would I be considered judgement proof? If the plaintiff does in fact win and I cannot pay the judgement, what could they do to enforce that judgement? Would they be able to put liens on future income or send police to come to my home to take personal belongings (TV’s, etc)? Can you be arrested or go to jail for not paying the judgement?

Asked on May 9, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, you can't go to jail for not paying a debt, so long as you did not do anything criminal in incurring the debt (for example, you did not take out a loan using false information, or take it out intending to default and never repay).

Yes, one way a creditor who obtains a judgment against you can try to collect their money is by "executing" on personal property of yours--having a court officer seize and sell certain belongings, like a big-screen TV.

Also, a judgment can be enforced for years after it is obtained; so even if you are more-or-less judgment proof now, they can obtain the judgment and then seek to collect on it later, after you have a job or inherit money or buy real estate.


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