NMCA: Judgments Are Forever

The Cadle Company acquired a 1987 state-court judgment against the defendant, and filed suit on the judgment in 2002 and 2009, acquiring new judgments against the defendant each time. In 2016, the Cadle Company filed a suit on the 2009 judgment.

The defendant argued that this claim was barred by NMSA 1978, Sec. 37-1-2, which provides that “[a]ctions founded upon any judgment of any court of the state may be brought within fourteen years from the date of the judgment, and not afterward.” The district court agreed with the defendant that the 2009 and 2002 judgments were founded on the 1987 judgment, and that the 2016 lawsuit was therefore barred, since it was brought 29 years after the 1987 judgment.

In The Cadle Company v. Seavall, the Court of Appeals reversed. In an opinion by Judge Vargas, the Court held that Section 37-1-2 does not abrogate the common-law rule that an “action on a judgment” creates an entirely new judgment.

The upshot is that when a plaintiff obtains a judgment, it can be enforced for 14 years, but if the plaintiff files an “action on the judgment,” and obtains a new judgment, then that new judgment may be enforced for another 14 years. So in this case, the Cadle Company’s 2002 and 2009 judgments each created new 14-year periods in which the judgment can be executed, and therefore the 2016 action was not barred by Section 37-1-2.

The Court recognized that its ruling will effectively allow an original judgment to be enforced forever, but said that it is for the Legislature to decide whether the law should be changed.

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