Until recently, there has been some debate on this question caused by the interpretation of some Courts that a Florida judgment is subject to a five year statute of limitations. However, the Florida Supreme Court, in Salinas v. Ramsey, 2018 WL 549183 (2018) recently considered this question and came to the conclusion that a Florida judgment actually lasts twenty years, rather than just five.
The Salinas Court generally explained that post-judgment discovery, the ability of the plaintiff to obtain information regarding the debtor’s assets, is permitted for 20 years following the date that the judgment is entered. Case law which held that the time period for discovery was only five years was overruled in Salinas.
This is because post-judgment discovery is not considered “an action on a judgment” subject to Florida’s five year statute of limitations. In fact, the Salinas Court determined that post-judgment discovery is not only not an action on a judgment, it is not an action at all within the meaning of F.S. § 95.011 (statute providing for five year limitation period). The Salinas Court found that: “[d]iscovery is part of the collection effort, which occurs after the issuance of the judgment as part of the final process for the case… Post-judgment discovery is appropriate as long as the judgment is enforceable.” The Court found that Florida judgments have a twenty year life during which those judgments are enforceable.
The Salinas Court concluded that “all post-judgment discovery efforts aimed at collecting such a judgment must occur – and be completed – within twenty years of the entry of the judgment.
The moral of the story for judgment creditors – there is still time to commence post-judgment discovery and collect on your judgment thanks to the Court in Salinas. Therefore, it may be time to dust off those old (seemingly uncollectible) judgments and retain counsel who can send post-judgment discovery to the judgment debtor.
War story: We took a case like that in which a creditor had a substantial judgment against an individual. The Judgment was 15 years old. The client told us that they thought the judgment debtor may be homeless. We took the case. We found the judgment debtor, served post-judgment discovery and received an emergency motion to vacate the 15 year old judgment when the judgment debtor, obviously no longer homeless, hired a big law firm to file an emergency motion to vacate the 15 year old judgment. The filing of the Emergency Motion was good news for us. It meant that the judgment debtor had somehow found some money. The big law firm lost the motion to vacate. We settled the case for a substantial sum. Moral of the story – never give up.