When a plaintiff wins a civil case, the judge or jury awards a civil judgment. In some cases, the judgment may be automatic because the defendant fails to respond to the complaint.

How Long Does the Plaintiff Have to Collect the Judgment?

The amount of time a plaintiff has to collect varies from state to state. But, judgments are usually valid for about seven to 20 years before they expire. 

What Happens After the Judgment Expires? 

The judgment becomes dormant. Dormant means the judgment lapses or expires. The plaintiff can no longer collect on the judgment by: 

  • Making the defendant appear in a debtor’s examination hearing
  • Garnishing wages
  • Seizing property
  • Seizing money in bank accounts 

Is There a Way a Plaintiff Can Collect on a Dormant Judgment Legally?

Yes, the plaintiff can contact the defendant directly to request payment. But the payment must be made voluntarily.

Can The Plaintiff Sue Me Again for The Same Debt?

In most situations, a plaintiff must go back to the same court that issued the judgment and request it be “revived.” Many courts do allow plaintiffs to reinstate the lapsed judgment within a specific timeframe. In most jurisdictions it’s 10 years from the date the judgment lapsed to revive it. 

Do I Have Options to Stop the Plaintiff From Reviving the Judgment?

Yes. Most courts will allow the defendant to submit an answer to the petition to revive the dormant judgment. In the answer the defendant can fight the judgment by claiming the: 

Can I Do Anything to Fight the Original Judgment?

Yes. A defendant can try to reopen the original lawsuit by filing a motion to vacate the original judgment. 

Should I Talk to a Lawyer Regarding Dormant Judgment?

Consult a civil lawyer regarding what to do about a dormant judgment a plaintiff is seeking to revive. The lawyer can give you advice on how to proceed.