Our Chicago business attorneys were interested to see a decision sorting out how an individual creditor with a judgment in his favor may collect on the debt. In Tobias v. Lake Forest Partners LLC, No. 1-09-1054 (Ill. 1st June 22, 2010), Andrew Tobias lent $500,000 to Lake Forest Partners, a Nevada corporation. The company defaulted on the loan and Tobias won a judgment awarding him the loan principal, interest and attorney fees, against Lake Forest as well as three people who personally guaranteed the loan: Mark Weissman, Christopher French and Albert Montano. The judgment originally called for more than $668,000 to be paid to Tobias, but Tobias successfully moved to amend the judgment to call for $662,172.21 “plus costs,” possibly to account for post-judgment attorney fees, costs and interest.
Meanwhile, intervenor Greystone Business Credit II won a judgment against Weissman individually in Florida federal court. Both Greystone and Tobias sought to recover their judgments by discovering assets owned by Weissman and held by another company, MEA Management LLC. Tobias filed his request some months earlier than Greystone, and Greystone’s request was stayed. MEA had $339,444 belonging to Weissman. Tobias requested that MEA release enough to satisfy his judgment and Greystone intervened to point out that it also had an interest in the money. Tobias later petitioned for post-judgment attorney fees and costs. After entertaining out-of-court attempts to resolve this conflict, the court awarded $86,845.12 to satisfy the original judgment for Tobias, and $126,299.44 each to Weissman and Greystone. The petition by Tobias for post-judgment fees was not addressed.
Tobias appealed, arguing that the $86,845.12 award was not “full satisfaction” of his judgment, since the post-judgment attorney fees were not paid. He argued that his post-judgment attorney fees claim should have been given the same priority as the rest of the judgment, meaning priority over any other party, including Greystone. Not surprisingly, Greystone disagreed, arguing that the post-judgment attorney fees had never been reduced to a judgment and could therefore not be enforced in this situation. The First District Court of Appeal agreed with Greystone. Under sec. 2-1402 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, a judgment creditor may discover assets held by a third party for the debtor. But Supreme Court Rule 277 says these proceedings “may be commenced at any time with respect to a judgment which is subject to enforcement.” Under Bank of
Matteson v. Brown, 283 Ill. App. 3d 599, 602, 669 N.E.2d 1351 (1996), the First said, that means credits cannot discover assets until a judgment has been entered.
The First rejected the argument from Tobias that his post-judgment claim should have the same priority as the underlying claim because it is ancillary to the underlying debt. Because of Supreme Court Rule 277, the court wrote, no claim can achieve lien status until there is a judgment. The judgment in favor of Tobias never included post-judgment attorney fees, the court wrote. If he later obtains one, it would be prioritized behind earlier judgments, including Greystone’s. For those reasons, the First found that the trial court’s order was proper and affirmed its decision.