Every plaintiff seeking money damages should consider filing an application for a
“prejudgment remedy” (or “PJR”) against the defendant. A PJR application is often a powerful tool in the litigation process that can be deployed at the beginning of a case.
In Connecticut, unlike in most other states, the plaintiff can apply to the Court for a “prejudgment remedy” against the defendant. The purpose of a PJR is to discover early in the litigation process whether the defendant has any assets and to lien or “attach” the defendant’s non-exempt assets to satisfy a judgment should the plaintiff ultimately receive a judgment against the defendant after trial. For example, if the plaintiff sues the defendant for failure to repay a loan in the amount of $100,000, the plaintiff can file an application with the Court for a PJR against the defendant in the amount of $100,000 (and possibly more if the loan document provides that the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s legal fees).
To grant a PJR application, the plaintiff must demonstrate at a hearing that there is probable cause to support its claims against the defendant. The probable cause standard is a relatively low one, though some courts are more demanding than others. The plaintiff does not need to prove his or her case at the hearing on the application for a prejudgment remedy; the plaintiff need only demonstrate through testimony and documents that a reasonable person could determine that the plaintiff may ultimately prevail at trial in the amount sought.
A PJR application is useful for a number of reasons. Upon filing, the defendant will be advised by his or her attorney that, if granted, the plaintiff will be able to essentially freeze some of the defendant’s assets during the pendency of the case, which could be years. Such assets can include real estate, bank accounts, and other property of the defendant which is non-exempt. This possibility is often distasteful to the defendant, especially if the defendant was planning to transfer or liquidate his or her assets in the near future. Moreover, at the hearing on the PJR application, the plaintiff has the opportunity to subpoena the defendant and other witnesses to give testimony and provide documents concerning the underlying facts. If the plaintiff’s case is strong, the plaintiff can make the most of this opportunity by locking in favorable testimony early on in the process. In some cases, the prospect of a PJR will force the defendant to come to the settlement table.
Also, it may be the case that the defendant is “judgment-proof,” meaning that he or she has limited or no non-exempt assets to speak of. Though unfortunate from the plaintiff’s perspective, it is better to learn of this reality early in the process instead of spending precious time and money pursuing a defendant that will never pay, even if the plaintiff could ultimately prevail at trial.
Whether it is prudent to seek a PJR depends on the specific facts of the dispute and budgetary considerations.