Judgment Creditors are Limited to the terms of their Foreign Judgments

Last week, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a decision on an action to enforce a default judgment under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, found at Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 26-6-101 to -108.

The case has a few interesting twists and turns, and the full text can be found at The Wolf Organization, Inc. v. TNG Contractors, LLC, M201800073COAR3CV, 2019 WL 2883813 (Tenn. App. July 3, 2019).

Today, I’m looking at only one issue: Whether the Judgment Creditor in a Foreign Judgment Enforcement action can get additional attorney’s fees for its efforts to domesticate the judgment.

Here, there is no separate basis under the UEFJA to recover fees as part of the domestication, but the creditor was, instead, relying on the underlying claims/contract from the original litigation. In response, the Court essentially ruled that there are two requests by the Creditor:  (1) a request to enroll a foreign judgment; and (2) now, a breach of contract claim for the additional attorney’s fees.

Specifically, the Court of Appeals said: “This is not a breach of contract action. Rather, it is an action seeking to register and enforce a foreign judgment.” Id. at at *7. “The issue before the trial court was whether to give full faith and credit to the Pennsylvania judgment. The merits of the underlying litigation, including the amount of damages awarded, were irrelevant. ” Id.

So, there you have it. A claim for additional attorney’s fees should be brought in the original jurisdiction or, alternatively, in a new and separate proceeding in the foreign jurisdiction. But, either way, they can’t automatically be combined in the judgment enrollment proceedings.