Civil/Commercial Litigation (Lawsuits)/A Question To Morgan Smith



If a freelance worker causes a business to suffer huge monetary loss through their wrongdoings, for example through breaking a NDA, and that worker is then ordered by a court to pay the business money in damages, and the worker has no money to pay the damages - can the business or the worker have the government pay the amount owed in damages (so that the business gets its money straight away), and then have the freelancer pay the government back slowly over their time? This question applies to both a) the UK law system and, b) the US law system. And, if this does not happen, is there any other way in which a business, having lost a lot of money and possibly facing going bust, can recover money it has lost (assuming again that the worker cannot pay anything)?

Am I correct in saying that it is extremely rare for an individual to be sent to jail over a civil matter, and it only really occurs when a person is held in contempt of court? (And contempt of court means that a person has been seen by a judge, and the judge has ordered them to do something, and they have not done it - correct?)

My final question is this - when a UK freelance worker signs a contract or NDA with a US business, and the worker breaks that contract or NDA, under which system of law would the worker face penalties (the UK one or the US one)?

I apologise for all these questions!

Thank you very much for your help!!

Hello again Peter,

Before I respond further to your question, I must make clear that I do not represent you, and cannot give you individual particularized legal advice. No attorney client relationship is created by this email. For legal advice, you should hire your own attorney, and follow their advice. My role with AllExperts is limited to providing general information and suggestions for educational or general knowledge purposes. Before you take any action, consult with your own attorney.

I do not practice international law, and leave you to advice from others regarding contract enforcement and drafting among parties from different countries.  I suggest that you confer with an attorney licensed to practice in your area to help you prepare, amend or reject contracts depending on your needs and expectations.

Regarding Minnesota law, I have not heard of anyone getting the government to pay a judgment debtor's debt to the judgment creditor.  If you want to sponsor a bill that would add that process, I think you'd have a lot of happy judgment creditors, and a lot of angry taxpayers responding to you.

A judgment creditor bears the burden of enforcing their judgment.  Tools to do that include wage garnishment, bank levies, liens and seizures of property for sheriff auction.  I don't know of anything like you describe.

You are right, civil penalties are typically limited to money, or an order not to do something.  Contempt powers by judges can include fining or sending somebody to jail for misconduct in court, or for breaking court rules or orders.  Outside of something very strange, a party that is defeated in a civil action has to only worry about their money.

The answer to your choice of law question would depend primarily on the language in the contract.  A choice of law clause is a valid term of a contract to set which jurisdiction disputes arising thereunder shall be adjudicated.  If there is no choice of law clause in your contract, then jurisdiction would be determined by the facts surrounding the creation of the agreement.  Generally, its a good idea to proceed in the court system that has jurisdiction over the defendant, so that if you win, you can use the local sheriff to help with judgment enforcement of a local judgment.

I hope this helps, good luck to you.

Morgan Smith
Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Morgan Smith


Civil litigation (contract claims, landlord-tenant actions, forfeiture suits, residential construction defect matters), Family law (divorce, custody modifications, child support modifications, and pre-nuptial agreement), new business start-ups, civil forfeiture, asset forfeiture. Please do not submit your question as Private. It is my policy not to answer Private questions from members of the public here on AllExperts; I reserve that function to my private clients. Although AllExperts permits me to change your questions from Private to Public, it is my policy not to do that. I encourage you to resubmit your question as a public question. Your public question has the potential to help others with similar concerns. I suggest that you use a pretend name and otherwise alter sensitive facts that make you inclined to treat your question as Private, and submit your question to me Publicly.


I've been practicing law in the State of Minnesota since 1995. I've worked in skyscraper firms, and now my own small firm in Minneapolis. Past answers from my earlier participation on AllExperts is posted at:

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