Defective Legal Description Will Not Necessarily Invalidate Mortgage
Sampling Of Indiana Deed Law, And Judgment Lien Attachment Issues

Indiana Judgment Lien (10 Years) and Judgment Enforcement (20 Years) Statutes Of Limitation

Lesson.  Even though a ten-year judgment lien may expire, a judgment creditor still may enforce the judgment itself for at least another ten years.

Case cite.  Webb v. Yeager, 52 N.E.3d 30 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016).

Legal issue.  Whether a judgment creditor’s civil complaint to enforce a criminal restitution judgment was barred by the ten-year statute of limitations. 

Vital facts.  On May 3, 2004, Yeager (judgment creditor) obtained a criminal judgment against Webb (judgment debtor).  The judgment was for restitution, arising out of a theft, for about $21,000.  Later, the criminal system made a mistake, and the record showed that the judgment had been paid.  (The details aren’t pertinent here.)  Ten years and nine days later, on May 12, 2014, the judgment creditor filed an action in civil court to collect the prior judgment, which had not been paid. 

Procedural history.  The trial court granted summary judgment for the judgment creditor, and the judgment debtor appealed. 

Key rules.  Ind. Code 35-50-5-3 governs criminal restitution orders and provides that an order “is a judgment lien….”  Indiana case law holds that a restitution judgment is the practical equivalent of a civil money judgment and can be enforced in the same manner. 

By statute, a judgment lien expires after ten years.  I.C. 34-55-9-2As I wrote here in November of 2008, an underlying judgment and a resulting judgment lien are two different things.  Judgments themselves survive for twenty years.  I.C. 34-11-2-12.  In fact, a judgment never truly expires.  It’s simply presumed to be satisfied after twenty years.  But, that presumption can be rebutted.  

Holding.  The Court of Appeals in Webb concluded that, given the passing of the full ten years, the judgment lien had expired.  Nevertheless, the judgment creditor still could enforce the judgment because the judgment had not expired by the time he filed his complaint. 

Policy/rationale.  I gather that the heart of the Webb dispute surrounded the meaning of the criminal restitution statute.  The language of the statute uses the terminology “judgment lien,” instead of describing the restitution order simply as a “judgment.”  For example, I.C. 35-50-5-3(b) says that the restitution order may be enforced “in the same manner as a judgment lien created in a civil proceeding.”  One interpretation of this could be that the order, and thus the ability to collect, expires after ten years.  Relying on prior Indiana precedent, the Court didn’t see it that way. 

Related posts. 

I sometimes represent judgment creditors involved in lien priority and collection matters.  If you need assistance with a similar issue, please call me at 317-639-6151 or email me at [email protected].  Also, don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter @JohnDWaller or on LinkedIn, or you can subscribe to posts via RSS or email as noted on my home page.