Does the Uniform Law Set Forth a Particular Procedure for a Creditor to Seek Relief Against Fraudulent Transfers ?
In Cortez v. Vogt, 52 Cal. App. 4th 917, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d 841 (1997), the plaintiff brought suit against the defendants under the Uniform Act as adopted by the California legislature for a transfer that had occurred during the pendency of earlier litigation between the parties.
In successfully moving for summary judgment, the defendants argued that the plaintiff's claim was untimely because he failed to assert it within four years of the date of the alleged fraudulent transfer.
The California Court of Appeals, in finding the plaintiff's claim not time-barred, held that in cases where the alleged fraudulent transfer occurs during the pendency of a tort creditor's suit to establish his claim, and the creditor waits until he secures judgment against the debtor before seeking to set aside the transfer, the four-year time period begins to run on the date judgment is entered. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th 917, 937, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 853-54.
Notwithstanding the plain language of the statute, which the court noted "appears to be straightforward in its reference to the time 'the transfer was made,'" the court determined the Uniform Act incorporated prior case law holding that where a creditor waits to attack a fraudulent transfer until after judicial establishment of his claim, the statutory period of limitations commences upon the judgment's entry. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th at 929, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 848.
In reaching its conclusion, the Cortez court stressed the remedies afforded under the Uniform Act, as well as its predecessor statute, the Uniform Fraudulent Conveyance Act, are cumulative of remedies that existed before the uniform laws were drafted. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th at 930, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 849.
The court noted the Uniform Act does not set forth a particular procedure for a creditor to seek relief against fraudulent transfers.
Under the statute, a creditor is permitted, but not required, to maintain an action to annul a fraudulent transfer before his debt has matured. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th at 930, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 849.
The court explained that pursuant to preexisting remedies, a creditor could wait for his claim to be reduced to judgment before attacking a transfer as fraudulent.
In such cases, the common law provided a creditor the benefit of a limitations period that began to run when judgment on the underlying debt became final. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th at 929-30, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 848-49.
The court specifically found support for its holding in the committee comments published in conjunction with the Uniform Act. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th at 934-37, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 852-53.
The court concluded that since the Uniform Act was a carry-over of the remedies that existed under the prior law, the act incorporated the procedure of permitting a creditor to pursue his claim to judgment before seeking relief under its provisions and, as such, incorporated prior case law starting the limitations period from the time of judgment. Cortez, 52 Cal. App. 4th 917, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d at 849-50.