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A Judgment Creditor is Entitled to the Same Financial and Legal Rights as the Judgment Debtor Under an Automobile Liability Insurance Policy

July 7, 2021

This case arises from a claim filed against Defendants, Asals & Nationwide, for negligently striking and killing a pedestrian in Northwest D.C. In this case, the trial court entered a directed verdict as to the issues of negligence and contributory negligence, and a jury awarded the Estate of George F. Mina damages totaling $801,779.30, including an award of $275,000.00 in non-economic damages. Asal et al. v. Estate of Mina, Nos. 18-CV-534, 19-CV-642, & 19-CV-643, CAB-9125-15, (March 18, 2021). Following entry of the judgment, the Defendants moved for a new trial and filed a Motion to Stay the Execution of Judgment pending a decision on the Motion for a New Trial. Id. The Estate opposed and responded with a motion requesting that Defendants post a secured bond as a condition for a stay. Id. at 7. The trial court granted the Estate’s request. Id.

Subsequently, neither Defendant posted the required bond nor paid any of the judgement, and the Estate filed a writ of attachment against Nationwide in an effort to seize the proceeds of the Asals’ policy. Id. at 9. Nationwide denied possessing any property belonging to the Asals, and the Estate filed a Motion for Judgment of Condemnation against the Defendants, asserting that the Estate became a judgment creditor and, therefore, subrogated the Asals’ right to indemnification, which required Nationwide to remit the policy limit to the Estate. Id. at 10.

Nationwide appealed the trial court’s ruling that Mr. Mina’s Estate was entitled to garnish the benefits of the Asal’s insurance policy. Id. However, the court, relying on Peninsula Ins. Co. v. Houser, 238 A.2d.95, 97 (Md. 1968), held that a judgment creditor is entitled to the same financial and legal rights as the judgment debtor under an automobile liability insurance policy.

Asal et al. v. Estate of Mina, Nos. 18-CV-534, 19-CV-642, & 19-CV-643, CAB-9125-15, (March 18, 2021). Therefore,upon entry of a judgment against an insured party, the insured party’s status changes to judgment debtor and its insurer’s status to garnishee, such that the benefits of the insurance policy may be eligible for attachment and garnishment.