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Rejection of garnishment request upheld

February 14, 2013

A collection company seeking to garnish a woman’s wages in order to satisfy an alleged $1,800 debt was unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that the trial court had to issue the garnishment order.

In American Acceptance Co., LLC., as Assignee of Washington Mutual Finance v. Melissa Willis, 42A04-1208-CC-466, American Acceptance Co. argued based on Indiana Code 24-4.5-5-105, Melissa Willis had the income that was subject to garnishment and the trial court was required to order the garnishment.

American Acceptance filed a complaint against Willis in May 2009 that she owed $1,855.50 for goods and/or services. In June 2012, it sought to garnish her wages from Western Southern Financial Group. Willis testified that she was paid solely on commissions, she was supporting her husband and two children, and that she had to post a $25,000 cash bond for her husband’s release from jail. He was charged with theft and possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Willis suggested American Acceptance be paid out of the bond money when her husband’s criminal charges were settled.

The trial court denied American Acceptance’s motion, finding she didn’t have “substantial income to allow a wage garnishment order.”

In affirming the trial court, Judge Michael Barnes pointed to I.C. 34-55-8-7(a), which says a court may order garnishment of a debtor’s income to satisfy a judgment.

“The trial court here was not required to order garnishment of Willis’s income. Instead, it was within the trial court’s discretion to do so,” he wrote. “The trial court chose to order that the Clerk of the Knox Circuit/Superior Court ‘is not to release the bond in Cause Number 42D01-1010-FB-139, State vs. Todd Willis, until a hearing can be held in this cause of action for purposes of settlement.’”

Given Willis’ circumstances, this was not an abuse of discretion, the judges held.

 

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