If you are owed money (a “creditor”) and the person owing the money (the “debtor”) refuses to pay, generally the only way you can collect the money is by first obtaining a money judgment against the debtor. Once the judgment is obtained, collection proceedings such as wage garnishments and asset hearings can then be instituted against the debtor. Coffman & Seidenberger is experienced in all stages of debt collection actions and creditor rights. By utilizing innovative collection strategies coupled with new technology and keeping our attorney fees at a minimum, Coffman and Seidenberger routinely obtains and collects on judgments for their clients. We also offer competitive contingent fee recovery arrangements on post-judgment collection proceedings.
We have experience in creditor debt collection in areas such as:
We know how to turn your debt into a valid enforceable judgment.
A suit for a money judgment in the amount you are owed, plus applicable interest and attorney fees may be filed in either (a) small claims court if the money owed is less than $10,000.00; or (b) generally, district court. Small claims court is typically effective and cheaper for pro se (representing yourself) plaintiffs than district court actions. However, the district court can be a viable avenue even if the debt owed is less than $10,000.00 if the case is complex for assorted reasons.
When a collection action is filed in small claims, a hearing date will be set 2-8 weeks out from the date of filing of the action. At the small claims hearing, the debtor defendant(s) must appear once properly served with the action or a default judgment will be awarded. If the debtor defendant appears and disputes the debt, a hearing will be held. At the small claims hearing, the plaintiff will typically be called as a witness and evidence will be presented to the judgment in the form of testimony and documentation such as contracts, invoices, and past payments made by the debtor.
When a collection action is filed in district court, the defendant will typically have 35 days to respond to the allegations in the petition through a written Answer. If the defendant fails to respond, a default judgment will be awarded. If the defendant does file an Answer, the action will generally remain open until either a) summary judgment is awarded; b) it is settled; or c) a trial is conducted. Summary judgments are awarded by courts without trial though a mechanism called a Motion for Summary Judgment. A Motion for Summary Judgment sets forth material facts not in dispute by attaching supporting documentation such as contracts, agreements, affidavits, and billing invoices. Assuming the assigned judge finds there are no material facts in dispute warranting a trial, a Motion for Summary Judgment will generally be granted and judgment will be awarded in favor of the creditor plaintiff. The attorneys at Coffman & Seidenberger are experienced in obtaining summary judgment in collection actions when a favorable settlement cannot be reached to avoid the costs of going to trial.
Attorney fees and court costs can typically be recovered if a creditor plaintiff is found to be the prevailing party and recovers a judgment against the debtor. In small claims suits, however, if the debtor does not object to the debt or a default judgment is obtained by their failure to appear at the hearing date, the maximum attorney fee amount that can be awarded is 10% of the sued upon principal debt. In all other attorney fee award instances, such as attorney fee awards in district court actions, the judge will award a “reasonable attorney fee.” While there is no guarantee, Coffman & Seidenberger strives to keep the attorney fees it accrues in collection proceedings well within the realm of “reasonable” as the term is legally defined. As a result, Coffman & Seidenberger’s clients are routinely awarded all of the accrued attorney fees when a district court judgment is obtained in a collection action. Awarded attorney fees are reduced to a judgment and must be collected in the same way as a judgment for unpaid debt.
Once a judgment is obtained, you must collect on it. Oklahoma law affords several collection remedies for collecting on a judgment, namely, garnishments, asset hearings, judgment liens, and executions. Prior to engaging in collection remedies, an evaluation of the debtor’s assets is prudent as it often determines which remedy is the best avenue. Coffman & Seidenberger is experienced in scrupulously reviewing publicly available information and utilizing databases that compile public information to uncover debtor assets that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, attorney fees are generally not recoverable during post-judgment collection. The court costs accrued during post-judgment collection is automatically awarded, however. Coffman & Seidenberger is experienced in keeping attorney fees to a minimum and recommending the collection remedy that will yield the best result for its clients without incurring unnecessary fees.
We have extensive creditor side foreclosure experience and consistently obtain marketable title through successful foreclosures.
Oklahoma law recognizes both judicial foreclosures and non-judicial foreclosures. A judicial foreclosure is a foreclosure brought through the court system, generally the district court in the county where the property is located. Nonjudicial foreclosure is a foreclosure conducted outside of the court system through a “power of sale” clause on the underlying mortgage. While non-judicial foreclosures are recognized under Oklahoma law through the Power of Sale Mortgage Foreclosure Act at 46 OK Stat § 40 et seq., they are extremely rare and generally viewed with disfavor compared with Oklahoma’s judicial foreclosure process.
At Coffman & Seidenberger, we also consistently initiate and resolve judicial foreclosure actions with positive results for our clients. A completed foreclosure results in a sheriff’s deed under a sheriff sale confirmed by the court awarding property to the highest bidder of the underlying sheriff sale. A foreclosure, generally, should name all outstanding lienholders on the properties and address any title defects so that the title is marketable and can pass muster with any title examiners reviewing the property’s chain of title. “A marketable title is one free from apparent defects, grave doubts, and litigious uncertainty, and consists of both legal and equitable title fairly deducible of record.” Oklahoma Title Examination Standard 1.1. We have experience not only in foreclosures but also in title review and title curatives such as quiet title actions. This combination offers our clients unparalleled representation in foreclosure proceedings so that positive results and marketable titles are routinely obtained.
Our firm also knows how to navigate the non-judicial power of sale process to a successful resolution when a judicial foreclosure is not appropriate.
Our office is experienced in registering and collecting upon foreign judgments domesticated in Oklahoma. We welcome working with out of state clients and their counsel and routinely successfully collect on domesticated judgments. Please call us today if you need assistance in registering a judgment in Oklahoma arising from an out of state jurisdiction.
Oklahoma Courts have enacted an act that allows for the collection of foreign judgments arising out of state — or in some circumstances, out of the country. Coffman & Seidenberger has extensive experience navigating the act to ensure that you or your client’s out of state judgment is properly domesticated and successfully collected upon in our state.
Under the Oklahoma Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, the foreign (out of state) judgment can be registered with a district court by filing a triple authenticated a/k/a triple-certified copy of the judgment issued in the out of state jurisdiction. A simple file-stamped copy will not suffice. Obtaining a triple authenticated a/k/a triple-certified copy of a foreign judgment from the originating court in a timely fashion is oftentimes easier said than done. Our attorneys know how to navigate foreign court systems to obtain these judgments for domestication in compliance with the Act.
An affidavit setting forth the name and last-known post office address of the judgment debtor, and of the judgment creditor must also be filed contemporaneously with the filing of the foreign judgment for domestication. 12 OK Stat § 12-721 (2014); 12 O.S. 721 (2014).
Upon the filing of the foreign out of state judgment and the accompanying affidavit, the clerk is required by statute to mail file-stamped copies of the notice to the judgment debtor at the address provided. 12 OK Stat § 12-722 (2014); 12 O.S. 722 (2014). The notice must include the name, address of the judgment creditor and the judgment creditor’s lawyer, if any. Despite the statutory requirement, court clerks of Oklahoma’s district courts often forget the necessity of mailing notice of the domesticated foreign judgment to the judgment debtor and rely on the judgment creditor to do this directly. Perhaps, for this reason, the statute further allows for the notice to be mailed directly to the judgment debtor by the judgment creditor. If this is done and supported by proof of mailing, any lack of notice of filing by the clerk will not affect the enforcement proceedings. Coffman & Seidenberger always ensures an affidavit in compliance with the Act is filed followed by issuing a proper notice of the filing of the foreign judgment to the judgment debtor with proof of mailing. This ensures the judgment cannot be attacked and challenged on procedural grounds so that your collection remedies cannot be disturbed.
Once the foreign judgment is properly domesticated, a twenty (20) day stay of execution is applicable barring issuance of collection remedies in Oklahoma. Upon expiration of the stay of execution, standard collection remedies such as asset hearings and garnishments may issue.
When a debtor files bankruptcy to discharge a debt owed to a creditor, we know what to do in the bankruptcy proceeding to assert and protect your debt to the fullest extent possible.
Upon the filing of a bankruptcy proceeding, an automatic stay goes into effect that prohibits collection efforts. The bankruptcy proceeding then needs to be monitored to determine how the debt is to be treated (for example whether it is listed as, secured or unsecured). Generally, the bankruptcy court will also request that certain actions be taken or filings made depending on the bankruptcy chapter and the case must be closely monitored to ensure no deadlines or requested actions are missed. At Coffman & Seidenberger, we have a tremendous amount of experience protecting and asserting creditor rights in bankruptcy proceedings. For example, we routinely handle the following creditor bankruptcy matters: