Defending Against Enforcement of a Foreign Judgment – The Sum of Money Requirement
by: Giacomo Bossa & Arlette Gomez
An out-of-country foreign judgment that is final and conclusive and enforceable where rendered, may be enforced under the Uniform Out-of-Country Foreign Money- Judgment Recognition Act. Defenses against enforcement of these judgments range from alleging that the judgment was rendered by a system too different from our own so as to not comport with the requirements of due process or lack of personal or subject matter jurisdiction by the particular court. However, a lesser-known defense and one that has substantial support within courts applying this act, is to allege that the statute doesn’t apply, because the judgment does not grant or deny recovery of a specific sum of money.
An “out-of-country foreign judgment” under the Act is “any judgment of a foreign state granting or denying recovery of a sum of money[.]” § 55.602(2), Fla. Stat.; Nicor International Corp. v. El Paso Corp., 318 F. Supp. 2d. 1160, 1165 (S.D. Fla. 2004) (acknowledging that judgments not governed by the Uniform Act include judgments granting injunctive relief).
In contrast, an “order that does not award or deny a specific sum of money is not recognizable under the Uniform Act.” Nicor Int’l Corp, 292 F. Supp. 2d. at 1365. (applying Florida law). Courts have found that when a judgment does not contain a sum of money on its face, a supplemental sworn statement of damages does not cure the “sum of money deficiency” of the judgment sought to be domesticated, as doing so would not comport with the requirements of the Uniform Act. Id.; see Osario v. Harza Engineering Co., 890 F. Supp. 750, 754 (N.D. ILL.1995) (holding that nothing in the act authorized recognition and enforcement of an Argentine judgment pursuant to a letter addressed to any judge of competent jurisdiction in Chicago from a judge of Commerce in Buenos Aires).
In Bianchi v. Savino Del Bene Int’l Freight Forwarders, Inc., 770 N.E. 2d 684, 685 (Ill. App. 1st. Dist. 2002), the plaintiff sought recognition of an Italian judgment that ordered payment of unspecified funds. The court found that the judgment was not enforceable under Illinois’ version of the Uniform Act where the judgment was deemed inconclusive despite allegations that the judgment contained “a precise formula” for determining the sum. Id. at 697. The court in this case declined to recognize the judgment explaining that judgments are only entitled to recognition under the Act where they grant or deny the recovery of a sum of money. Id. at 688.
For a foreign judgment to be recognized under similarly worded Uniform Acts, courts have held that the sum of money awarded or denied must be specific. Krediverein Der Bank Austria v. Nejezchleba, No. 04-cv-72, 2006 WL 1851129, at 3* (D. Minn. 2006). In Krediverein the court held that a judgment was not recognizable because it did not include a specific sum of money and the parties had to finalize the judgment amount in a lower court in Austria for a determination of the specific sum of damages before the judgment was deemed final and enforceable in Minnesota. Id.
In Farrow Mortgage. Services Pty. Ltd. V. Singh, CA 937171, 1995 WL 809561, at *3 (Mass. Super. Mar. 30, 1995), aff’d, 675 N.E.2d 445 (Mass. App. 1997), the court determined whether an Australian judgment was enforceable when it awarded undetermined costs. In that case, the Australian judgment awarded to plaintiff a sum of money, plus costs. However, because the Australian court did not determine the actual dollar figure of such costs owed, its award of costs was not recognized and enforced in Massachusetts under the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgment Recognition Act. Id. The court reasoned that a foreign judgment for an undetermined amount of money is not enforceable under the act, as it does not satisfy the “sum of money” requirement. Id. at 4.
As such, when looking for ways to defend against enforcement of an out-of-country foreign money judgment, consider whether the judgment, on its face, is granting or denying recovery of a specific sum of money. If it does not, it is likely that enforcement can be prevented by alleging that the statute does not apply.