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Troubleshooter Alert: Difficulty collecting judgement from small claims court

Troubleshooter Alert: Difficulty collecting judgement from small claims court (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Many people who believe they've been wronged turn to the courts for help.

In Ohio and Indiana people can sue in small claims court for up to $6,000; $1,500 in Kentucky. When people sue in small claims court they don't need to hire a lawyer. But often times if even if people win their case they may have a hard time collecting their money.

That's what Bonita Miller of Bond Hill said she found, “I was baking a pizza and it set off my carbon monoxide alarm. I couldn't rest my carbon monoxide alarm."

The fire department came and turned off the gas line to her stove. Then she called a repairman who replaced a part.

Miller said, “I paid him $240 and he left and I didn't bother to use the stove."

She said she was afraid to use it but finally tried it again. After Miller used the stove again once again it didn't work correctly. The alarms went off and this time she called Duke Energy. They came out, disconnected the gas line and then said there was still a big problem.

Miller called that repairman again but, “He was in here for less than half an hour. He didn't stay long enough to see the problems that I said that I was finding."

Fearing carbon monoxide, she didn't use the stove for seven months. When she did, there was still a problem, so she called a different repairman who replaced the control panel. The first repairman wouldn't refund her money because his warranty expired. So she sued in small claims court and won a default judgement when the repairman didn't show up in court.

But she hasn't been able to collect so she complained to the court but was told, “The judge has given you the judgement. They said we do absolutely nothing. You have to do what you can to get your money back."

Since no court will automatically force someone to pay, what can people do if they find themselves in this situation? Well, there are several things people can do to try to collect through the court. First, file for a personal judgement debtor exam hearing. This is where the person who owes the money is compelled to appear in court so people can ask about their assets like bank accounts and bank balances. Then people can garnish the accounts, or even paychecks, in order to collect money.

People can also file to seize their personal property through what's called a live execution where a bailiff seizes their property. If the debt involves a motor vehicle accident people can have their driver's license suspended.

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