Patience For a Twelvemonth

By Timothy Wan

I don’t like to close out judgments as “uncollectible”. Sure, sometimes the company is out of business, the owner/operator dies with no assets, and there is no successor company. That one can be closed. But if I have a judgment against an individual, I’ll stay patient. A judgment in New York is valid for twenty years. Just because a judgment-debtor appears to be judgment-proof at this time, they may not be, forever.  Think about where you were twenty years ago…. Are you in the same financial position then, as you are now?

A debtor, whom I shall refer to as “Fagin” was a miserly gentleman, but one who acquired a great deal of wealth in the financial markets.  But unfortunately, he fell victim to the financial crisis of 2008, ponzi schemes, pick pocketing, and lost his job. He couldn’t pay the rent, and moved from the beautiful Gotham apartment, (the kind that sell for multiple seven-figures, and the monthly rent on a two-bedroom apartment is more than some people’s gross income for six months), to various hostels, one after another.

We were retained by the property owner, the Claridge, to sue on Fagin’s rental arrears.  We located him at the home of the Artful Dodger, commenced suit, served him personally in-hand, and obtained a judgment in 2009. We found no assets of any kind, but kept the matter in our inventory of cases, with our team checking for assets, or a viable address, every 180 days. And we did so, for 14 years.

In 2023, we located a bank account with over a hundred and sixty thousand dollars in it, and commenced the execution. Of course, Fagin brought an Order to Show Cause to vacate the judgment, on the basis of the inability to pay the rent, due entirely to the loss of his wages. Moreover, he admitted service, but said he had an inability to pay.  Finally, he alleged that the amount was astronomically higher than the rent that he failed to pay.

Well, we had answers for all of those allegations. The loss of wages and inability to pay were not potentially meritorious defenses. And the higher amount was due to the compounding of 14 years of interest!

In response to our opposition papers, Fagin alleged that he was never served properly.

The Court’s ruling was short and succinct.  “Given the age of the case, Plaintiff would be at a grave disadvantage, and place an overwhelming burden of producing witnesses and evidence that are most likely no longer available… The Court would essentially be unfairly compensating Defendant for his abhorrent unexcused delay.” The Court upheld our judgment and allowed us to execute.

Fagin had better go back to reviewing his situation.