Washington Law Review


Whenever a plaintiff sues a defendant for money damages, she runs the risk that the defendant will attempt to render herself unable to satisfy the expected money judgment by hiding or dissipating assets. Although most states have statutes that authorize prejudgment attachment of the defendant's assets to prevent this result, the attachment statutes are poorly designed to reduce the plaintiff's risk. The attachment statutes are both under- and over-inclusive: they do not authorize the attachment of property located outside the state, thereby failing to prevent the dissipation of all of the defendant's property, yet they grant the plaintiff a lien in the attached property (a security interest to which she is not entitled) and authorize the attachment of property in the hands of innocent third parties on the plaintiff's word that the property is the defendant's. Courts can reduce the risk of harm to plaintiffs more effectively without interfering with the rights of innocent third parties by granting preliminary injunctions to bar the dissipation of assets. Although courts typically have refrained from issuing preliminary equitable relief in actions in which the plaintiff's final remedy is at law, the reasons for this hesitancy do not obtain in this context. Neither precedent nor the "no adequate remedy at law" requirement for equitable relief should dissuade courts from using preliminary injunctions in cases in which the plaintiff can demonstrate that she is likely both to succeed on the merits of her claim and to be unable to collect on her expected money judgment if the defendant is not restrained.

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