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Automotive Credit Corp. v. White

Court of Appeals of Georgia

January 25, 2018

AUTOMOTIVE CREDIT CORP.
v.
WHITE.

          Dillard, Chief Judge.

         Automotive Credit Corporation ("ACC") appeals the trial court's denial of its petition to domesticate and enforce a judgment that was entered by a Michigan court in its favor against Dominique White in 2007. Specifically, ACC argues that the trial court erred in concluding that the foreign judgment was not subject to domestication in Georgia because it became dormant seven years after it was entered. For the reasons set forth infra, we reverse.

         The record shows that on August 3, 2007, a Michigan court entered a default judgment against White, awarding ACC a total of $24, 450.27 in damages, interest, attorney fees, and other litigation costs.[1] Approximately nine years and three months later, on November 7, 2016, ACC filed an action in the State Court of Cobb County under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Law ("UEFJL")[2] to domesticate and enforce the 2007 Michigan judgment. White did not respond to ACC's petition, but the trial court nevertheless denied it, finding that the Michigan judgment was not subject to domestication in Georgia because, under OCGA § 9-12-60, the judgment became dormant seven years after it was entered. This appeal by ACC follows.

         In its sole argument, ACC maintains that the trial court erred in finding that its petition was untimely because, in Georgia, a foreign judgment is subject to enforcement for ten years following the entry of the judgment. We agree.

         Under the UEFJL a filed foreign judgment has "the same effect and is subject to the same procedures, defenses, and proceedings for reopening, vacating, staying, enforcing, or satisfying as a judgment of the court in which it is filed and may be enforced or satisfied in like manner."[3] Thus, the judgment debtor is "entitled to a stay of enforcement of a foreign judgment if he shows the court any ground on which enforcement of a judgment of the court of this state would be stayed."[4] Simply put, the UEFJL provides "a summary procedure for endowing a filed foreign judgment with the same effect as a judgment of the court in which it is filed."[5] Indeed, it is not a "new action but merely picks up where it was left off in the state where rendered[, ]"[6] and "[a]ny litigation ensuing is limited to that which is afforded any other Georgia judgment."[7]

         As to the Georgia law applicable to this case, OCGA § 9-12-60 provides that a judgment shall become dormant and will not be enforced "[w]hen seven years . . . elapse[s] after the rendition of the judgment before execution is issued thereon and is entered on the general execution docket of the county in which the judgment was rendered[.]"[8] And OCGA § 9-12-61 further provides that "[w]hen any judgment obtained in any court becomes dormant, the same may be renewed or revived by an action or by scire facias, at the option of the holder of the judgment, within three years from the time it becomes dormant." In this respect, ACC correctly notes that, in Corzo Trucking Corp. v. West, [9] we held that these two statutes "operate in tandem as a ten-year statute of limitation for the enforcement of Georgia judgments."[10]Indeed, although a judgment becomes dormant seven years from the date of the last entry upon the execution docket, "it does not expire until ten years after that date."[11]And applying these statutes to enforcement of foreign judgments specifically, we further explained that the ten-year limitation period begins to run when the foreign judgment is rendered.[12] To hold otherwise would mean that the foreign judgment "would not have the same effect as a Georgia judgment or be subject to the same defenses as a Georgia judgment, in that a Georgia judgment is extinguished ten years after its rendition if there has been neither an entry of execution on the general execution docket of the county nor a renewal."[13]

         The trial court, then, was required to treat the August 3, 2007 Michigan judgment as if it had been entered in Georgia, and in doing so, the court correctly found that, under OCGA § 9-12-60, the judgment became dormant seven years after it was entered. But here, the trial court overlooked the fact that ACC had an additional three years after the judgment became dormant to revive it under OCGA § 9-12-61. And because ACC sought domestication and enforcement of the Michigan judgment in November 2016, less than ten years after its entry, it was enforceable in Georgia.[14]

         For all these reasons, we reverse the trial court's denial of ACC's petition to domesticate and enforce the Michigan judgment.

          Judgment reversed. Ray and Self, JJ, concur

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Notes:

[1] It is not entirely clear from the record or the parties' briefs what claims were at issue in the Michigan case, but White's brief suggests that the claims may have been related to the sale of a vehicle. Nevertheless, the substance of the case giving rise to the Michigan judgment is not pertinent to the resolution of this appeal.

[2] See OCGA § 9-12-130, et seq.


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