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CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST COLLECTION CONSULTANTS OF CALIFORNIA

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on January 24, 2015

 

The law offices of Hartman Law Office, Inc. and Semnar Law Firm, Inc. have recently teamed up with the law firms of Kazerouni Law Group, APC and Hyde & Swigart to file a class action lawsuit against a medical debt collection company called Collection Consultants of California. The lawsuit alleges that the company has been attempting to add unlawful interest to the debt that they allege is outstanding, and when the Plaintiff called to complain about their adding of interest despite the medical provider having never added interest, she was told by a collection agent that they were entitled to interest pursuant to pursuant to Calif. Civ. Code §§ 3287-3289. The lawsuit further alleges that the case of Diaz v. Kubler Corp. (So. Dist. Calif. Nov. 6, 2013) 982 F. Supp. 2d 1146, 1153-1157 holds that a debt collector claiming to be entitled to interest pursuant to Calif. Civ. Code §§ 3287-3289 without first having a judgment in place and without the debtor’s express agreement to be so obligated in the contract creating the debt violates 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692f and 1692f(1) of FDCPA as a matter of law for unfair and unconscionable means in connection with debt collection, including collecting amounts that are not authorized by law or agreement.

If you or a loved one have received any efforts by Collection Consultants of California to collect interest on an allegedly outstanding debt (medical or otherwise), please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss whether your rights have been violated.

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TCPA VIOLATIONS RESULTS IN DEFAULT JUDGEMENT AGAINST BANK OF AMERICA IN EXCESS OF $1 MILLION

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on December 14, 2014

 

It is very common in the credit industry for collectors and creditors to use robo-calls to both cell phones and land-lines for purposes of debt collection. Robo-calls are when a computer dials a number stored within its system and when the recipient of the call answers the phone they are confronted with a robotic or pre-recorded voice message instead of a live human.

The reason for these calls being so common in the collection industry is because it is much cheaper for a company to use a machine to blast consumers with repeated calls than it is for the company to pay an employee to sit at a phone and manually dial numbers multiple times per day. However, if a consumer tells a creditor/collector to stop calling them, then every subsequent robo-dial is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) worth $500.00-$1,500.00 per call. One couple in Tampa, Florida recently obtained default judgment against Bank of America for receiving over 700 unwanted robo-dials in a five year period. Because Bank of America failed to respond to the lawsuit in time, the couple was awarded damages in excess of $1 Million by default judgment. Of course, Bank of America will now appeal the lawsuit, and it is unclear as to how the court of appeal will handle their request to set aside the default judgment. However, the point is clear—companies should respect and honor consumers’ requests that the unwanted and harassing robo-dials cease!

A news article by “Good Morning America” describing the lawsuit as well as other debt collection harassment violations by Bank of America can be found here: https://gma.yahoo.com/couple-wins-1m-suit-against-major-bank-outrageous-002552031–abc-news-topstories.html. Additionally, a news article by “The Consumerist” about the lawsuit can be found here: http://consumerist.com/2014/12/11/bank-of-america-must-pay-family-1-million-for-5-years-of-unwanted-robocalls/ , which also has links to the court papers pertaining to the lawsuit.

If you or a loved one is receiving harassing phone calls by a creditor, debt collector, or telemarketer despite your requests that they stop calling, do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights and what you can do to make them stop.

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HAVE YOU BEEN CONTACTED BY THE LAW OFFICES OF D. SCOTT CARRUTHERS FOR DEBT COLLECTION?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on December 8, 2014

 

If you or a loved one have been contacted by The Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers and they are claiming to be collecting on an old debt, then you should contact us immediately to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated.

The law firm of Semnar & Hartman, LLP recently filed an FDCPA lawsuit against The Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The lawsuit alleges that an employee named Cheryl of The Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers called the plaintiff at work multiple times and threatened him with a lawsuit on a debt from which the plaintiff was relieved years ago by the creditor. When the plaintiff protested, Cheryl began to threaten the plaintiff with having him served with the summons at work so as to embarrass and humiliate him and also claimed that he will lose the lawsuit if he tries to fight it. She also began to make very derogatory remarks such as asking how it is he can properly treat his patients as a nurse if he goes into default on his financial obligations, and also laughed at him when he said he was going to hire a lawyer. Cheryl also continued to call him at work despite his insistence that they not call him at work. Cheryl’s threats of having him served with a lawsuit at work were also in direct contradiction to a collection letter sent by Carruthers’ office that promised no litigation within the next 30 days. All of this conduct by Cheryl has resulted in the filing of a Complaint that can be read here

Further investigation into the debt collection practices of The Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers have revealed a very disturbing pattern of violating consumer rights. Carruthers’ office has been sued multiple times in various District Courts for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for conduct that includes lies, improper threats, and false representations in connection with debt collection activity, such as collecting much more than the debt actually was, collecting on debts that have been stayed by order of a Bankruptcy court, contacting consumers directly despite knowing that the consumer was represented by an attorney, and for conduct very similar to that suffered by the plaintiff above. This disturbing patterns shows that Carruthers’ office either does not care to follow the law or does not properly train his employees despite being sued numerous times.

As a result, if you have been contacted by Carruthers’ office for collection of a consumer debt, then it is reasonable to suspect that your rights may have been violated. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss what your rights are.

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LAWSUITS ALLEGE WELLS FARGO BANK HAS ENGAGED IN MULTIPLE ACTS OF HARASSMENT, MISREPRESENTATIONS, AND DECEPTION TOWARDS ITS OWN CUSTOMERS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 25, 2014

 

Multiple lawsuits have been filed recently against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. alleging various violations of consumer rights.

In one case, the customers allege that they had a home mortgage loan with Wells Fargo in the State of Kansas that resulted in a short-sale, through which Wells Fargo received the benefit of approximately $9,000.00 more than the debt actually owed on the loan. Unfortunately, however, Wells Fargo did not properly update their records, as they suddenly started calling the customers repeatedly and demanding that the customers still owed them approximately $111,780.35 on the loan. When the customers tried to explain that Wells Fargo had already been paid that amount plus an additional $9,000.00 more, the representatives refused to listen to the customers and argued with them about how the customers were wrong.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Wells Fargo reported to the State of California Franchise Tax Board that the customers earned income within the State of California in tax year 2010, which prompted the Tax Board to issue notices of levies upon one of the customer’s wages for back taxes. However, the customers did not reside in the State of California in the year 2010, and the home mortgage loan dealt with property located in the State of Kansas. This lawsuit has alleged multiple violations of the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to seek compensation for the emotional distress caused by Wells Fargo’s multiple incidents of deception, misrepresentation, and attempting to collect unlawful amounts. This complaint can be read here. WF Complaint 1

In another case, the customer had a student loan account with Wells Fargo. The lawsuit alleges that the customer transferred a payment from his Wells Fargo checking account into his student loan account in order to make a payment on his student loan obligation. Thereafter, Wells Fargo’s checking department reversed the payment without informing the client, which caused him to go into default on his student loan account without knowledge and without any fault of his own. The lawsuit further alleges that the student loan department began placing an unreasonable and obscene amount of calls to the customer and demanding that his acceleration clause kicked in to the point where he now owed the full amount of the loan, and the collection agents refused to listen to his explanation of how the default was no fault of his own.

After a Wells Fargo representative finally agreed that the default was no fault of the customer and reversed the default status on the account, Wells Fargo failed to properly update the customer’s consumer credit report and maintained that he was in default status, and even reported two derogatory accounts for the customer even though he only had one student loan account. The lawsuit therefore seeks redress for multiple violations of the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the State and Federal Fair Credit Reporting Acts for Wells Fargo’s unfairness at reversing the student loan transfer, misrepresentations as to the acceleration clause being triggered, attempting to collect improper amounts, and failing to properly report accurate information upon the customer’s consumer credit report. This complaint can be read here. WF Complaint 2

Another lawsuit alleges that Wells Fargo unfairly harassed the customer’s elderly mother during a time when she could not be subjected to undue stress in her life. The lawsuit alleges that the customer had not even defaulted upon his home mortgage loan, but for some reason Wells Fargo placed at least 35 calls to his mother between November 4, 2014 and November 21, 2014 and claimed that they were looking for her son. The mother repeatedly told the agents that the son does not live with her and she has nothing to do with the son’s home mortgage loan, and repeatedly insisted that they stop calling her. However, Wells Fargo refused to honor her request and maintained their persistence in calling her. The mother was recovering from a recent cardiac procedure and had been advised by her doctor to avoid all stress, and she was also grieving from the recent passing of her mother-in-law. The lawsuit alleges that Wells Fargo’s persistent placement of harassing calls to her increased the stress inflicted upon her at a time when she should not have had to be bothered by Wells Fargo. This lawsuit seeks redress for multiple violations of the California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for unfair and harassing phone calls to both the customer and his mother. This complaint can be read here. WF Complaint 3

If you or a loved one are having to suffer harassment inflicted by Wells Fargo similar to the above lawsuits, please do not hesitate to call us for further information as to what your rights are and how you can stand up for yourself. The playing field does not have to be one-sided in the industry of consumer credit. Our nation’s financial super powers should NOT be permitted to treat their own customers in such a fashion and should be taught that they have to uphold and respect consumer rights! As always, any consultation about consumer rights is done free of charge and maintains confidentiality.

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SPAM TEXT MESSAGE VIOLATIONS RESULT IN JUDGEMENT OF $250,500.00 AGAINST CALI GROWN COLLECTIVE

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 21, 2014

 

On November 17, 2014, Judge Staton of the Central District of California awarded the Plaintiff Judgment in the amount of $250,500.00 as a result of the Plaintiff receiving several hundred spam text messages in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), codified at 47 U.S.C. 227(b).

The lawsuit was filed as a joint effort between the following law offices Hartman Law Office, Inc., Semnar Law Firm, Inc., Kazerouni Law Group, APC, and Hyde & Swigart. The Complaint alleged that the Defendant—Cali Grown Collective—began sending spam text messages to the Plaintiff in late 2013 soliciting his business for their medical marijuana collective, and each text message offered discounted rates on various strands of medical marijuana. Unfortunately, however, these spam messages were sent without the Plaintiff’s consent or authorization, and despite the fact that the Plaintiff had never once entered into any business transaction with Cali Grown Collective and never had any affiliation with them in any manner whatsoever.

After being properly served with the lawsuit, Cali Grown Collective failed to appear in the case. When a defendant fails to appear in a case after being properly served, the party who served them can pursue default judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 55. A default judgment under Federal law means the allegations pleaded in the complaint are deemed true, which then allows the Federal court to enter judgment against the defaulting defendant and also issue monetary relief for their legal violations. A copy of Judge Staton’s Opinion entering Default Judgment against Cali Grown Collective can be found here.Order Granting Default Judgement

Because the TCPA provides monetary damages based on the number of violations–$500.00 per violation at a minimum—and because in this case Cali Grown Collective committed several hundred violations despite the Plaintiff’s numerous attempts to make the messages stop, Judge Staton issued Judgment in Plaintiff’s favor for $250,000.00. A copy of the Judgment can be found here. Conformed Judgement

If you or anyone you know is receiving spam text messages as a marketing tactic without your consent or authorization, then you have rights that should be asserted against the company. The TCPA is primarily interested in protecting consumers’ rights to privacy and their right to let companies know how they can contact the consumer. If your rights are being violated, then you can assert those rights in a formal setting to seek compensation. Call us for a free and confidential consultation for more information.

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LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST WESTSTAR MORTGAGE INC. ALLEGES THE COMPANY DOES NOT PROTECT CALIFORNIA’S DEPLOYED MILITARY

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 11, 2014

 

On November 5, 2014, Semnar & Hartman, LLP filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California against Weststar Mortgage, Inc. alleging multiple violations of the law, including violations of the California Military and Veterans’ Code and the California Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The lawsuit is based on Weststar Mortgage’s failure to recognize and honor certain protections to which deployed military members are entitled.

Unfortunately, however, Weststar Mortgage treated the Plaintiffs as being in default during the very time period that the payments were supposed to have been deferred, and also threatened foreclosure and imposed late fees and penalties upon the account. Weststar even took the egregious step of insisting that the Plaintiffs pay a lump sum in excess of $6,000.00 in order to extend the maturity of the mortgage loan despite the fact that the military law requires such extension upon the maturity to match the time period of deferment. Bottom line, a deployed military member should NOT have to pay a lump sum of over $6,000.00 in order to be provided protections to which the military member and his family is ENTITLED BY LAW.

For more detailed information, Read the Complaint here.

Anyone who has information about similar or other illegal conduct by Weststar Mortage, Inc. please call us to discuss the details.

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FDCPA CLASS ACTION FILED AGAINST CLARK COUNTY COLLECTION SERVICE

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on October 22, 2014

 

Clark County Collection Service considers themselves “Debt Recovery Specialists” and their operation is based in Clark County, Nevada. However, their name alone raises concerns about whether they are in compliance with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA prohibits the following, among many other items of misconduct, “The false representation or implication that the debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State, including the use of any badge, uniform, or facsimile thereof.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(10). Because Clark County Collection Service operates out of Clark County, Nevada, and when they call potential debtors they identify themselves as “Clark County Collection”, it is very reasonable that the potential debtor would be misled and tricked into believing they are being contacted by a governmental entity.

Moreover, it appears that Clark County Collection Services has a common practice to fail to send required written notices after contacting potential debtors. Through 15 U.S.C. § 1692g, the FDCPA requires all debt collectors to send required written notices to potential debtors within 5 days of the first contact. Among these required notices are certain consumer protection rights that include the consumer’s right to dispute the alleged debt. Failure to send these required notices is an automatic violation of the FDCPA.

Hartman Law Office, Inc. and Semnar Law Firm, Inc. have teamed up with the law firms of Hyde & Swigart and Kazerouni Law Group, APC to pursue a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Clark County for the above violations, among others. Read the Complaint here.

If you or anyone you know has been contacted by Clark County Collection Service, whether by mail or telephone, please call us for additional information.

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UNLAWFUL THREATS OF REPOSSESSION BY “SKIPBUSTERS”

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on October 22, 2014

 

It is often a misconception that repossession agents are not liable for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because they are not actually collecting a “debt” according to the common perception of what a “debt” is. However, the courts do recognize that the FDCPA applies to companies that are purportedly invoking their rights to recover collateral security (property used to secure a monetary debt) as a recourse for failing to pay monetary obligations. For instance, when an auto title loan lists title to the vehicle as being property securing the loan, and the consumer defaults on re-payments to the loan, the creditor usually invokes its right under the contract to take possession of the vehicle itself as collateral. However, it is not uncommon for the repossession company to be incorrect as to when and how it can invoke its rights to repossession.

Many courts have ruled that repossession agents’ conduct can be a violation of the FDCPA, most especially when repossession efforts are not actually permitted under the law. Some of these court rulings are: Rawlinson v. Law Office of William M. Rudow, LLC, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 173 (4th Cir. Md. Jan. 5, 2012); and Williams v. Republic Recovery Services, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54827 (N.D. Ill. May 27, 2010); and Kaltenbach v. Richards, 464 F. 3d 524 (5th Cir. Sept. 11, 2006); and Shannon v Windsor Equity Group, Inc. (Southern District of California March 12, 2014)m Case No. 12-cv-1124-W(JMA).

For instance, Hartman Law Office, Inc. and Semnar Law Firm, Inc. have teamed up to file a lawsuit against two companies for many violations of consumer rights, including violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the California Military Families Financial Relief Act. This lawsuit alleges that one company known as “Skipbusters”-which is an affiliate entity of “Patrick K. Willis Company” -was retained by Alphera BMW Financial Services to undertake repossession of a Chrysler vehicle that should have been subjected to deferred payments during the husband’s military deployment. The husband properly invoked his right to deferment of the vehicle’s payments in accordance with the Calif. Military Families Financial Relief Act, but Alphera BMW Financial Services unfortunately refused to recognize and honor the deferment that is required by law. Alphera eventually retained the services of Skipbusters to undertake repossession, who then proceeded to threaten the wife with repossession and also threatened that she should not drive the vehicle to the grocery store because they will find her and take it while she is out. These threats of repossession amount to FDCPA violations because repossession could not be invoked during the time that the payments should have been deferred. For more detailed information, Read the Complaint here.

If you or someone you know have been threatened with unlawful repossession by Skipbusters, please do not hesitate to contact us for additional information.

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PAYDAY LOANS, TITLE LOANS, SHORT TERM LOANS….LEGAL LOANSHARKING?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on August 21, 2014

 

There are laws in California that prohibit loan transactions from having a APR (annual percentage rate) of greater than 12%–or 7% in many instances. These laws are called Usury Laws and can be found at Article XV, Section 1 of the California Constitution and in California Civil Code § 1916.12-1 through 1916.12-5. Pursuant to Calif. Civ. Code §1916.12-3(b), any person who contracts to receive a usurious amount of interest is considered “loan sharking” and is a felony crime. Additionally, someone who has suffered a usurious loan can sue civilly to recover all interest paid on the loan within the previous two years in addition to triple the amount of interest paid within the previous one year—these are not limited to just the usurious interest paid but applies to all interest paid.

Unfortunately, there are many exemptions from usury laws, such as banks, which is why credit cards, private student loans, and mortgage loans are typically between 10%-24%. There has been a disturbing rise in the past few years for “short term loans”, which are also listed as an exemption.

Short term loans are the types of loans that allow someone to get a quick influx of cash for a very high interest rate. The expectation is that the loan will be repaid in a short period of time and is not usually expected to take an entire year or more to be repaid, and therefore the high annual percentage rate is not expected to be detrimental to the borrower. If the company is labelling the loan a “short term loan” with the intention of evading the Usury laws, then the loan is not protected from Usury laws prohibitions.

If someone is truly in need of emergency funding and has the ability to repay the loan on time, these loans can be beneficial. The problem, though, is that most people don’t know how problematic it can be to pay these loans off on time, and then unexpectedly suffer high penalties, acceleration clauses, and losing both title and possession to their vehicles being used as collateral. Even more disturbing is that almost half of the people who take out these loans have to incur more debt with another company just to pay off the first company, thereby creating a never-ending cycle of debt for the company’s to simply sit back and profit from the unfortunate debtor struggling to survive on a day to day basis.

A very disturbing depiction of these loans was presented by John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight on Sunday August 10, 2014. Watch the video below for more:

The law offices of Semnar Law Firm, Inc. and Hartman Law Office, Inc. have teamed up to file a lawsuit recently against a company called Trading Financial Credit, LLC. The lawsuit was filed in the Orange County Superior Court under case number 30-2014-00735404. The complaint can be found here complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Trading Financial deceptively labelled their tile loan mandating 92% APR on a $4,000.00 loan as a type of loan exempt from Usury, but only did so with the intention of avoiding usury law prohibitions. The lawsuit further alleges violations of Rosenthal FDCPA (for more on that see our tab called “Debt Collection”) by having someone falsely threaten the plaintiff with criminal investigations for fraud and by calling her references with the same false threats, among other matters.

The bottom line, every person should be very careful when entering into these types of loans. Tough economic times may require quick cash, but there are many other ways to obtain cash that might not cause as many problems. If you or a loved one has entered into such a loan and is being taken advantage of and feel that the loan company is violating your rights, contact us immediately for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your circumstances.

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LAW FIRMS FILING LAWSUITS FOR OUTSTANDING DEBTS ARE SUBJECT TO THE FDCPA!

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on August 4, 2014

 

If you have been sued for an outstanding debt, you MUST contact us immediately for a FREE, CONFIDENTIAL consultation to discuss the circumstances of whether the law firm has violated your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the California Rosenthal Act.

Many people mistakenly believe that, because they are being sued by a law firm, the FDCPA does not protect them for the unfair and oppressive actions taken by the law firm. However, courts all across the country recognize that law firms whose practice primarily engage in the collection of debts on behalf of others—including whose primary practice is to file lawsuits for many of these firms operate like a mill and they do not engage in any meaningful review of the case provided to them by the creditor on whose behalf they are pursuing suit (if they engage in any review at all). Instead, their primary operation is to simply accept the creditor’s claim that the debt is owed, that the particular person being sought after is the right person, the amount sought is proper, and that the lawsuit is not barred by statute of limitations. They will then send a few letters and place a few phone calls to the claimed debtor, and upon receiving no response they will file hundreds of lawsuits in bulk and then seek default judgment on bogus proofs of service. This in turn results in judgment liens being placed upon the unfortunate debtor’s home, bank accounts, or vehicles, and may also result in a garnishment of the unfortunate debtor’s wages directly from his or her paycheck.

Many violations that are committed by these law firm mills include the following:

  1. Threatening to file a lawsuit or seek judgment on a debt that is barred by statute of limitations
  2. Filing a lawsuit that is barred by applicable statute of limitations
  3. Discussing the debt with friends, neighbors, or family of the actual debtor
  4. Seeking default judgment on fraudulent proofs of service when the debtor was not actually served properly
  5. Asking for more money in the lawsuit than what they are entitled to collect
  6. Filing suit in a county other than where the debtor currently resides or where the debt was actually incurred

Most people are misinformed when they believe that such violations by law firms in connection with a lawsuit are not able to prosecuted because of a state law litigation privilege. However, the courts have repeatedly denied such arguments in finding that the Federal Pre-emption Clause prohibits any state law litigation privilege from barring a lawsuit for violations of Federal Laws. Depending on the violation involved, it is also possible that their conduct could give rise to a charge for abuse of process or malicious prosecution and result in punitive damages against them.

The law offices of Semnar Law Firm, Inc. and Hartman Law Office, Inc. have teamed up with the firms of Kazerouni Law Group, APC and Hyde & Swigart to file a federal lawsuit against Mandarich Law Group, LLP and CACH, LLC because the client entered into payment arrangements with Mandarich, then made every monthly payment as agreed, but Mandarich still filed a lawsuit against her, told her not to worry about the lawsuit and advised her she did not have to appear in court, but thereafter sought default judgment against her for the full amount of the debt without crediting any of the payments she had made. This atrocious violation of the client’s rights resulted in a lawsuit for Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Abuse of Process. The lawsuit can be found under case number 5:14-cv-01496 in the Central District of California.

DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU OR YOUR LOVED ONE. Let us help you stand up for your rights!!!