Enforcement of Foreign Judgments and the Florida Statute of Limitations

This article concerns the effect of the Florida Statute of Limitations on the right to enforce a “foreign judgment”; i.e., a judgment rendered by a court of a state other than Florida or a foreign country. A statute of limitations is one of substantive law that bars legal actions that are not timely brought.

The holder of a foreign judgment entered by a state other than Florida has the right to enforce that judgment in Florida either by initiating a new action or a proceeding pursuant to Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, F.S. §55.501 et seq. This right is also extended to the holders of judgments entered in foreign countries pursuant to the Uniform Out-of-country Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act, F. S. §55.601 et seq. These rights, however, are subject to certain limitations, among them being the Florida Statute of Limitations.

Florida Statute 95.11 (The Florida Statute of Limitations) provides that an action to enforce a foreign judgment must be commenced within five years of rendition of the judgment. This time period may be extended through events that are deemed to “toll”, i.e., suspend, the running of the five year period as provided in F.S. § 95.051; however, the applicable instances are rare and should not be relied upon. Furthermore, the five year time period may also be less than five years if the state wherein the judgment was rendered provides for a shorter time period to enforce a judgment. See F.S. § 95.10.

HOWEVER, if the judgment to be enforced is more than five years old, the judgment may still be enforceable. In an important case, it has been held that a judgment that is more than five years old can be enforced if the judgment is renewed under the applicable law of the state rendering the judgment and then the renewed judgment becomes subject to the five years limitation period and may then be enforced in Florida.

The application of the Statue of Limitations is not self executing and ought to be asserted as a defense by the judgment debtor. If properly raised, then issues concerning the “tolling” of the statute become relevant and will be resolved by the court in which the action to enforce the judgment has been filed.

The law office of Arthur S. Weitzner, P.A., of Sarasota, Florida is fully versed in assisting judgment holders in collecting their judgments within our geographical area of operation. Fees are usually contingent upon collection and only a reasonable cost advance is required to defray the actual disbursements to third parties. The cost advance is often collected from the judgment debtor and returned to the creditor without additional charge or compensation.