What Is a Compromise Judgment in Civil Court?

Civil court cases arise from lawsuits between parties. One party sues another, the case goes to court, and the court decides who wins and loses based on the evidence presented. In some cases, the parties agree to a compromise before the court officially rules. This leads to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘compromise judgment’.

Although the phrase ‘compromise judgment’ is technically a misnomer – it doesn’t really exist in the American legal system – it is descriptive enough that most people familiar with civil court understand what people mean when they use it. Someone referring to a compromise judgment is suggesting that the two parties reached some sort of compromise and settlement agreement they eventually took before the court for approval.

Judgments in Civil Courts

Understanding the compromise judgment principle begins with understanding judgments themselves. In civil courts, parties are contending over issues like unpaid debts, personal injury, and product liability. Criminal charges have nothing to do with civil cases. As such, courts do not render verdicts. Instead, they enter judgments.

A judgment essentially declares the winner of a given case. It also lays out how the winning party will be compensated. So in a debt collection case for example, you might have a company taking a deadbeat customer to court because she hasn’t paid her bill. A judgment entered against her would stipulate how much she owes in total. The total could include the original bill plus all sorts of costs incurred by the company in its attempts to collect.

The Two Parties Could Compromise

Civil cases are structured in such a way as to allow the two disputing parties to reach some sort of compromise prior to the conclusion of their case. Using the previous example, a company and its deadbeat customer could compromise on the total amount owed. The customer could agree to pay that amount in full as long as the company agrees to accept payment by way of installments.

Note that a compromise agreement doesn’t have to be equally fair to both sides. As long as both parties agree to it, a compromise can be submitted to the court for approval. It is up to the court to decide whether the proposed agreement is equitable and reasonable.

Incidentally, such arrangements are common in divorce cases. Attorneys for both parties work tirelessly to come up with some sort of settlement they can present to the court. The goal is to work something out rather than letting the court decide things like child custody, division of property, etc.

Compromise Doesn’t Change Enforcement

Parties to a civil lawsuit may choose to go the root of a compromise judgment in order to avoid messy court decisions. But according to Utah’s Judgment Collectors, reaching a compromise does not change enforcement. Whatever judgment the court eventually agrees to will have to be enforced by the winning party.

Judgment Collectors cites a similar example of a debt collection lawsuit. A court may enter a judgment in favor of a company suing a customer. The judgment compels the customer to pay his bill. But it is still the company’s responsibility to secure payment one way or another. More often than not, that means retaining an attorney or hiring a company like Judgment Collectors.

Enforcement notwithstanding, compromise judgments are little more than official judgments entered based on compromise agreements between the disputing parties. When two parties can come to some sort of compromise settlement, a court is not forced to intervene on their behalf. The court simply approves the compromise and enters its judgment accordingly.