Under Missouri procedural rules, an “attachment” is a prejudgment remedy by which property can be taken into custody to satisfy an anticipated judgment. It does not create a right to a judgment or debt. Instead, it provides a means of enforcing a judgment. In essence, an attachment is designed to allow a plaintiff take control of property to satisfy an expected debt and thereby prevent a defendant from selling, disposing or otherwise getting rid of property to evade collection from a judgment. The most common situation in which this occurs is when a plaintiff files a lawsuit and has specific concerns that a defendant is taking steps to conceal or dispose of property to avoid a potential judgment. The plaintiff can in certain circumstances preemptively attach certain property and have law enforcement take it into custody to protect it pending a judgment.
There are statutory and supreme court rules governing attachments. Statutorily, Section 521.010, RSMo sets forth when an attachment may be granted. The situations in which an attachment may be ordered include, without limitation: (1) where a defendant is about to remove property out of the state, with the intent to defraud, hinder or delay creditors, (2) where the defendant is about to move out of Missouri, or (3) where the defendant is about to remove his property with the intend to defraud, hinder or delay creditors.
The supreme court rules generally provide the mechanics of how to obtain an attachment order. Among other things, there must be an affidavit in support of the request to attach on specific property, grounds presented showing that an attachment is necessary, and a bond securing the attachment. The bond is important. If someone is awarded an order attaching property, such as real estate, but then the defendant wins on the ultimate case, there is no judgment. The defendant will have then suffered harm from the plaintiff attaching property to satisfy an anticipated judgment that never came to fruition. The defendant can then try to recover damages from the bond on account of being deprived use/access to the attached property.
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