Your Business’s Obligations When it Receives Garnishment Interrogatories
If you own or manage a business, you may find yourself in the position of being served with court documents asking for information on one of your employee’s wages. These documents can be called different things depending on the state, but in Nebraska these documents are called garnishment interrogatories and are usually served after a judgment is entered against one of the business’s employees. Though it is understandable to feel confusion or even fear at the site of documents with your business’s name on it, rest assured that there is no cause for alarm. However, the receipt of these documents triggers certain obligations that could carry legal consequences if the business fails to take appropriate action. This article provides a general overview of the obligations businesses and other employers have when garnishment documents are received from a court.
An entity or person that has sued and been awarded a judgment for money is called a judgment creditor. Judgment creditors have a number of different legal tools to enforce the judgment and actually collect on the debt. One of those tools is the ability to garnish the judgment debtor’s wages and the first step in this process is for the judgment creditor to request the court issue and serve garnishment interrogatories on the judgment debtor’s employer. In most cases these interrogatories are short and simple questionnaires regarding the judgment debtor’s wages and should be relatively simple to answer.
What the business owner or manager must be aware of is that responses to the garnishment interrogatories must be provided to the court within ten days of service. If the business does not respond to garnishment interrogatories by this deadline, then it can subject itself to serious legal consequences, including having a judgment entered against it for the full judgment debt.
The obligation to provide responses to the garnishment interrogatories applies whether the debtor is a current employee or not. Many business owners or managers simply assume if the debtor isn’t an employee, then they can just ignore the garnishment. However, one of the purposes of the garnishment interrogatories is for the judgment creditor to determine whether the debtor is an employee of the business, and if the debtor is not an employee, the business must respond as such. To reiterate, the business owner or manager must not assume that it doesn’t need to respond to the interrogatories simply because the debtor is not an employee.
If the business ignores the interrogatories and any other related notice, under Nebraska law, the business is then presumed to be indebted to the defendant, and in turn to the judgment creditor, for the full amount of the judgment debt. The judgment creditor can then file an application with the court to determine the liability of the business. The court will then schedule a hearing, which essentially acts a trial, where a representative of the business must appear and defend the business. If the business continues to ignore the proceedings and fails to attend, a judgment will be entered against the business for the full amount of the judgment debt. This will subject the business to all the same remedies that a judgment creditor has its disposal including executing on the business’s tangible and real property and garnishing the business’s bank accounts.
In most cases, businesses that fail to respond to garnishment interrogatories are able to clear up any misunderstanding with the judgment creditors well before judgment is entered against it, but you will save yourself a lot of headaches and stress if you simply take the time to respond to and return the garnishment interrogatories.
If you would like any advice regarding how to respond to garnishment interrogatories, please feel free to reach out to Koley Jessen.
 There is currently a bill in the Nebraska State Legislature, LB 95, which would increase this ten day deadline to twenty days.