Enforcing Foreign Judgments in U.S. Courts Part I

Your company worked hard to litigate its case in India, where the court just granted you a favorable ruling against an American defendant. The gavel falls and the order is stamped. But, how do you enforce it?

For a plaintiff, enforcing a judgment determines whether litigation produces moral vindication or tangible results. Where parties are located in different jurisdictions, or even different countries, expert legal advice is needed for transforming a  court order into actual relief.

In Illinois, parties may register foreign judgments with the court if the ruling is final, conclusive, and enforceable. This means that the ruling must specify a money award, even if an appeal is possible. Also, the court that issued the ruling must have proper authority to do so—for example, through personal jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter jurisdiction over the topic of the case. The ruling must not be disqualified by factors like impartiality, fraud, or lack of notice.

The procedural steps for submitting a foreign judgment to the court are comparable to registering a ruling from a court located in another state. The clerk of court requires an authenticated copy of the judgment, along with an affidavit and notice of filing. But, registering the judgment of a non-U.S. court presents other unique challenges. Translations are required for rulings in foreign languages. Additionally, if the judgment involves foreign currency, the Illinois Uniform Foreign-Money Claims Act requires courts to use the exchange rate as determined the day before payment will occur (and not, for example, the exchange rate that existed on the day judgment was entered in the foreign court.)

Finally, the party seeking to register the foreign decision must bring the action under the correct statute. The Illinois Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act governs judgments from different countries, whereas the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act involves judgments from other U.S. jurisdictions. The difference is subtle, but will not be overlooked a defendant seeking to escape liability. Preparedness and attention to detail is essential for successful litigation, no matter how strong  a case might be on the merits.

The Jayaram Law has experience representing foreign entities seeking to enforce a foreign judgment against an entity in the United States. We have successfully litigated procedural issues arising out of these circumstances, and would be happy to discuss your matter with you.