Allison L. Friedman, P.A.
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Can a Judgment Creditor Garnish an Out-Of-State Bank Account?

An effective post-judgment garnishment tool for a judgment creditor is garnishment of a judgment debtor's bank account.  However, what happens when the judgment debtor resides in another state but uses a national bank with a branch in Florida.  Does the bank account fall within the Florida court's jurisdiction to be subject to the writ of garnishment?

 

In practice, judgment creditors garnish those bank accounts by serving the bank at a branch here in Florida.  The banks are required to freeze the accounts until the Florida court issues an order advising as to whether the proceeds should be released to the judgment creditor or back to the judgment debtor if any exemptions apply.  However, in two recent decisions, the Florida District courts have suggested that a court must have jurisdiction over the garnishee as well as the property to be garnished in order to obtain a judgment against a debtor's property.  See APR Energy, LLC v. Pakistan Power Resources, LLC, 2009 LEXIS 17194 (M.D. Fla. 2009); Skulas vs. Loiselle, 2010 WL 1790439 (S.D.FLA. 2010).

 

I have seen this argued in at least two separate instances in different Florida state courts.  In the first instance, the court agreed with the APR Energy, LLC and Skulas courts and dissolved a writ served on a bank in Florida where the account, itself, originated and was maintained outside of Florida.  However, another court chose to uphold a writ of garnishment despite the fact that the bank account garnished originated and was maintained, at all times, out of the state of Florida.  It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out and whether it will ever be brought before the Florida Supreme Court.  However, for now, I would beware of these two cases and the impact they could have when serving a writ of garnishment on a bank account in Florida that was neither originated nor maintained within Florida.     

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