United States

Enforcing Contracts in

United States

Below is a detailed summary of the efficiency of contract enforcement. It follows the evolution of a sale of goods dispute, tracking the time, cost and number of procedures involved from the moment the plaintiff files the lawsuit until actual payment.

This information was collected as part of the Doing Business project, which measures and compares regulations relevant to the life cycle of a small- to medium-sized domestic business in 189 economies. The most recent round of data collection was completed in June 2013.

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  • Court Name: Supreme Court of the State of New York, Civil Branch
  • Claim Value LCU: 97768
  • City: New York City
Time (days) 370
Filing and service 30
Trial and judgment 240
Enforcement of judgment 100
Cost (% of claim) 18.4
Attorney cost (% of claim) 14.4
Court cost (% of claim) 0.5
Enforcement Cost (% of claim) 3.5
Procedures (number) 32
Filing and service
1      Plaintiff requests payment: Plaintiff or his lawyer asks Defendant orally or in writing to comply with the contract.
2      Plaintiff’s hiring of lawyer: Plaintiff hires a lawyer to represent him before the court.
*      Plaintiff’s filing of summons and complaint: Plaintiff files his summons and complaint with the court, orally or in writing.
*      Plaintiff’s payment of court fees: Plaintiff pays court duties, stamp duties, or any other type of court fee.
3      Registration of court case: The court administration registers the lawsuit or court case. This includes assigning a reference number to the lawsuit or court case.
*      Assignment of court case to a judge: The court case is assigned to a specific judge through a random procedure, automated system, ruling of an administrative judge, court officer, etc.
4      Court scrutiny of summons and complaint: A judge examines Plaintiff's summons and complaint for formal requirements.
5      Delivery of summons and complaint to person authorized to perform service of process on Defendant: The judge or a court officer delivers the summons to a summoning office, officer, or authorized person (including Plaintiff), for service of process on Defendant.
*      Arrangements for physical delivery of summons and complaint: Plaintiff takes whatever steps are necessary to arrange for physical service of process on Defendant, such as instructing a court officer or a (private) bailiff.
6      First attempt at physical delivery: A first attempt to physically deliver summons and complaint to Defendant is successful in the majority of cases.
7      Second attempt at physical delivery: If a first attempt was not successful, a second attempt to physically deliver the summons and complaint to Defendant is required by law or standard practice.
*      Proof of service: Plaintiff submits proof of service to court.
*      Application for pre-judgment attachment: Plaintiff submits an application in writing for the attachment of Defendant's property prior to judgment. (see assumption 5)
*      Decision on pre-judgment attachment: The judge decides whether to grant Plaintiff’s request for pre-judgment attachment of Defendant’s property and notifies Plaintiff and Defendant of the decision. This step may include requesting that Plaintiff submit guarantees or bonds to secure Defendant
8      Guarantees securing attached property: Plaintiff typically submits guarantees or bonds to secure Defendant against possible damages to attached property. (see assumption 5)
9      Pre-judgment attachment.: Defendant's property is attached prior to judgment. Attachment is either physical or achieved by registering, marking, debiting or separating assets. (see assumption 5)
10      Custody of assets attached prior to judgment: Defendant's attached assets are put under enforcement officer's or (private) bailiff's care. (see assumption 5)
11      Hearing on pre-judgment attachment: A hearing takes place to resolve the question of whether Defendant’s assets can be attached prior to judgment. This process may include the submission of separate summons and petitions. (see assumption 5)
Trial and judgment
12      Defendant’s filing of defense or answer to Plaintiff’s claim: Defendant files a written pleading which includes his defense or answer on the merits of the case. Defendant's written answer may or may not include witness statements, expert statements, the documents Defendant relies on as evidence and the legal authori
13      Framing of issues: Plaintiff and Defendant assist the court in framing issues on which evidence is to be presented.
14      Pre-trial conference on procedure: The judge meets with the parties to discuss procedural issues (for example which applications and motions parties intend to file, which documents parties intend to rely on, what will be presented as evidence the oral hearing or trial, etc.)
15      Mediation hearing: The judge during this informal meeting with the parties encourages them to settle the case. The judge acts as mediator. If the case cannot be settled, the judge may draft a pre-trial conference report, after which the case may be allocated to another judg
*      Request for interlocutory order: Defendant raises preliminary issues, such as jurisdiction, statute of limitation, etc.
*      Court’s issuance of interlocutory order: Court decides the preliminary issues the Defendant raised by issuing an interlocutory order.
16      Plaintiff’s appeal of court's interlocutory order: Plaintiff appeals the court's interlocutory order, which suspends the court proceedings.
*      Discovery requests: Plaintiff and Defendant make requests for the disclosure of documents, attempting to force the other party to reveal potentially detrimental documents.
17      Discovery disputes: Following a request for discovery of documentary evidence, the other party disputes the request and calls upon the judge to decide the issue.
18      Request for oral hearing or trial: Plaintiff applies for the date(s) for the oral hearing or trial.
*      Setting of date(s) for oral hearing or trial: The judge sets the date(s) for the oral hearing or trial.
19      Pre-trial conference aimed at preparing for trial: The judge meets with parties to make practical arrangements for the trial (for example, the number of witnesses parties intend to call on during trial, how much time each party is given to present oral arguments etc.).
*      List of (expert) witnesses: The parties file a list of (expert) witnesses with the court. (see assumption 6-a)
20      Trial (prevalent in common law): The parties argue the merits of the case at (an) oral session(s) before the court. Witnesses and expert witnesses are questioned and cross-examined during trial.
*      Final arguments: The parties present their final factual and legal arguments to the court either by oral presentation or by a written submission.
21      Notification of judgment in court: The parties are notified of the judgment at a court hearing.
22      Writing of judgment: The judge produces a written copy of the judgment.
23      Registration of judgment: The court office registers the judgment after receiving a written copy of the judgment.
24      Appeal period: By law, Defendant has the opportunity to appeal the judgment during a period specified in the law. Defendant decides not to appeal. Judgment becomes final the day the appeal period ends.
25      Reimbursement by Defendant of Plaintiff's court fees: The judgment obliges Defendant to reimburse Plaintiff for the court fees Plaintiff has advanced, because Defendant has lost the case.
Enforcement of judgment
26      Plaintiff’s advancement of enforcement fees: Plaintiff pays the fees related to the enforcement of the judgment.
27      Attachment of enforcement order to judgment: The judge attaches the enforcement order (‘seal’) to the judgment.
*      Delivery of enforcement order: The court's enforcement order is delivered to a court enforcement officer or a (private) bailiff.
28      Identification of Defendant's assets for attachment by court official or Defendant: Judge, a court enforcement officer, a (private) bailiff or the Defendant himself identifies Defendant's movable assets for attachment.
29      Attachment: Defendant’s movable goods are attached (physically or by registering, marking or separating assets).
30      Call for public auction: The judge calls a public auction by, for example, advertising or publication in the newspapers.
31      Sale through public auction: The Defendant’s movable property is sold at public auction.
32      Distribution of proceeds: The proceeds of the public auction are distributed to various creditors (including Plaintiff), according to the rules of priority.
33      Reimbursement of Plaintiff’s enforcement fees: Defendant reimburses Plaintiff's enforcement fees which Plaintiff had advanced previously.
34      Payment: Court orders that the proceeds of the public auction or the direct sale be delivered to Plaintiff.

Number of Procedures 34
Electronic filing of court cases -1
Specialized commercial courts -1
Total Number of Procedures 32
* Not counted in the total number of procedures

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