“It can happen so fast
Or a little bit late
Timing is everything”

A song by Garrett Helmund from the movie “Country Strong” released in 2010

Some court decisions are worth re-reading despite their age. Barnhill v. Johnson (503 U.S. 393 (1992)) is one of those decisions. It has been cited 807 times!

The task of collecting a past due debt often becomes an exhausting exercise consisting of numerous phone calls, broken promises and never-ending negotiations. Many times, it becomes a situation of “get what you can while you can before it’s too late to get anything”. It is a shame if, after all your hard work, you end up having to repay to a bankruptcy estate money that you worked so hard to collect.

The Barnhill v. Johnson decision, issued by the Supreme Court, is one such case that reminds you that time really matters. If you think that your customer is on the verge of disaster, either go and pick up the check yourself or have someone else in your company pick it up. Then, have the check deposited immediately. Saying that someone will be there shortly to pick up the check helps to eliminate the “I’ll get to it ASAP” excuse. If that is not possible, have the check sent by overnight courier, demand a bank check, or get a wire transfer of the funds. If someone says that you are overreacting, think about the story of the Barnhill decision.

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