DEFINITION of 'Judgment'

A court order to the loser of a lawsuit to pay the winner a specified sum of money. If someone has been harmed in some way, they will seek to resolve the dispute in court and collect damages by filing a lawsuit. Judgments are usually monetary, but can also be nonmonetary. The judgment might force a contractor to complete a job, for example, rather than pay money. Most of the time, a judgment will be for a sum of money because money is the most appropriate form of compensation for the harm. A judgment, paid or unpaid, will remain on the debtor's credit report for seven years, but it will have a worse effect on their credit score of it is unpaid.


For the winner of a lawsuit, a court judgment is only the first step in getting the money they are owed. Actually collecting the money from the debtor can be a long, arduous and not always a successful process. However, judgments are legally enforceable. So, if the debtor does not voluntarily pay the judgment, the creditor can take steps such as conducting a debtor's examination, seizing bank accounts, putting a lien on the debtor's property or hiring a debt collector.

For example, if a borrower does not repay a loan or a credit card debt, the lender or creditor can obtain a judgment to force the borrower to pay. As another example, a landlord who evicted a tenant for not paying the rent might file a lawsuit to collect the unpaid rent, and if the landlord won the lawsuit, it would result in a judgment against the tenant.