Because of this blog, our China lawyers get a fairly steady stream of China law questions from readers, mostly via emails but occasionally via blog comments as well. If we were to conduct research on all the questions we get asked and then comprehensively answer them, we would become overwhelmed. So what we usually do is provide a super fast general answer and, when it is easy to do so, a link or two to a blog post that may provide some additional guidance. We figure we might as well post some of these on here as well. On Fridays, like today.
One of the questions we often get — usually from American lawyers — is whether our firm might be interested in helping them enforce a U.S. court judgment in China. To explain the typical situation that compels such a question, I will use the below exaggerated and partially fictional email composite.
American Lawyer: After more than a year and billings of more than $50,000, we just secured a default judgment against XYZ China company in XYZ County Superior Court in Iowa –not sure why but we get a truly disproportionate number of these from Iowa. We got Hague service of process on the Chinese company (that is a long story too) and so we are now ready to take this judgment and enforce it in China and collect what we are owed. The judgment is for $3,239,987.44. It’s for a kid who was badly injured by a Chinese manufactured lighter. We would expect you to take this on a contingency fee and we are wondering how long you expect this will take and what the out of pocket costs will be.
Our typical answer: Sorry, we would not be interested in this case even for a 150% contingency fee. China does not enforce U.S. court judgments. It just doesn’t. And to the extent this is even possible, it is even less likely to enforce a default judgment for a tort. What we can do is charge you hourly to try to figure out if you have other collection options (maybe seizing payments made to this Chinese company or its assets in the United States or in some other country (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, or South Korea can sometimes work) that actually gives some recognition to U.S. court judgments.