Avoiding Pitfalls in Garnishment Proceedings

By: Scott M. Richard

Judgment creditors in Louisiana possess a variety of post-judgment means to collect outstanding judgments. One method available to a judgment creditor is garnishment of a judgment debtor’s property possessed by a third party.  After petitioning the court and obtaining a writ of fieri facias (otherwise known as a writ of Fifa), the creditor may serve garnishment interrogatories upon any third party believed to have possession of property owned by the judgment debtor.  Any property or debt possessed by the garnishee is considered seized upon service with the garnishment interrogatories and notice of seizure.  Though the third party may be inclined to either put off answering the interrogatories or decline to respond at all, failure to answer garnishment interrogatories has significant consequences.

Under the Louisiana Civil Code of Procedure, a garnishee must respond to garnishment interrogatories served upon him within fifteen days from the date of service. If the garnishee fails to do so, a judgment creditor may proceed against the garnishee for the amount of the judgment, together with interest and costs.  Moreover, a garnishee’s failure to answer timely creates prima facie proof that the garnishee either possesses property belonging to the judgment debtor, or is indebted to the judgment debtor.  At this point, the Civil Code of Procedure dictates a judgment shall be rendered against the garnishee unless he proves he does not possess property belonging to the judgment debtor or is not indebted to the judgment debtor.  Nonetheless, even if the garnishee meets this burden, the judgment creditor is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs for the motion regardless of the outcome.

Because of the harsh consequences imposed on untimely answering garnishees, it is of the utmost importance that a garnishee respond to interrogatories as soon as received. Otherwise, the garnishee would at best be assessed attorney’s fees and costs and at worst be indebted to the judgment creditor.

 

Davidson Meaux is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

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