What is Judgment?
A judgment is a court order to pay someone else a sum of money or other remedy.
How Does Judgment Work?
Let's say John Doe owns a pit bull he hasn't trained very well. One day, John's dog jumps the fence and mauls Jane Smith's dog, Fifi. Jane rushes Fifi to the vet and incurs $2,000 in vet bills.
Jane sues John Doe for $3,000 to compensate for the vet bills and pain and suffering. The judge agrees and orders John to pay the $3,000. This order is a judgment against John, and it is usually a matter of public record. If John does not pay the judgment, Jane can ask the court for remedy, which might include the court placing a lien on his assets, garnishing his wages or other actions.
There are different kinds of judgments. A default judgment, for example, occurs in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to appear in court to defend himself or does not respond to a summons. A deficiency judgment occurs when the sale of a seized piece of property does not generate enough cash to pay the judgment and the court has to place a lien on more property.
Why Does Judgment Matter?
Judgments are reported to credit agencies and generally stay on a person's credit report as a negative item for seven years. Judgments aren't always monetary, though. A judge could order John to build a higher fence on his property, for example, or take the dog away.