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On January 15, 2020, Judge Marquez of the Riverisde County Superior Court denied a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Nationstar Mortgage, LLC against our client’s credit reporting claims filed pursuant to California Civil Code § 1785.25(a).

Our case alleges that Nationstar violated the law by failing to update its credit reporting of a mortgage loan after they foreclosed on the home subject of the loan and thereby failed to inform the world that our client’s loan and financial obligations had been extinguished.  As a result, even after the foreclosure, our client’s credit reports showed that a foreclosure remained pending from 2013 and also showed that she owed on-going monthly payments to Nationstar with a total balance owed on the loan in excess of $160,000.00.  Sadly, our client did not discover these problems until she and her husband attempted to obtain a new mortgage loan in late 2018.  Ultimately, she and her husband were unable to obtain a new home mortgage loan because the credit reports showed that she had not been free from a foreclosure for at least 3 years (since the credit reports showed that she was still pending foreclosure), and also created a negative debt to income ratio (since the credit reports showed that she still owed on-going financial obligations to Nationstar).

Even when our client lodged a formal dispute in December 2018, Nationstar verified the information as accurate and failed to simply update the reporting to show that the foreclosure had been completed.

We filed our claims against Nationstar for violating Section 1785.25(a) for furnishing incomplete and/or inaccurate information that Nationstar knew or should have known was incomplete or inaccurate.

Nationstar filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, where they argued that no rational jury could find liability on our claims and/or no rational jury could find that the credit reporting issues caused our client to suffer damages.

However, on January 15, 2020, the Court disagreed with Nationstar and denied their Motion, thereby paving the way for our claims to proceed to a jury to seek liability and damages.

A copy of the Court’s minute order entry can be found by clicking HERE, and a copy of our opposition to the Motion can be found by clicking HERE.

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Suffering issues arising from background check errors?

Unfortunately, it is more common than one would realize that people suffer hardship as a result of background check errors, such as being denied a job, denied a promotion, or even denied housing.

The National Consumer Law Center has recently issued an updated report that discusses how a significant number of adults living in the United States are affected by background check errors: about 94% of employers and about 90% of landlords use criminal background checks to evaluate prospective employees and tenant; about 1 in 3 adults (between 70 million and 100 million people) in the U.S. have a criminal record; and many additional people without a criminal record are wrongly tagged as having a record. You can read a copy of the NCLC report by clicking HERE.

At Semnar & Hartman, LLP we are experienced in this area of law and we regularly prosecute violations related to inaccurate background checks.

In fact, on December 3, 2019, Judge Coggins of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued a final approval order and judgment settling our class action against HKA Enterprises, LLC for allegations related to improper background check disclosures and failure to give proper and timely adverse action notices due to our client having suffered preliminary job approval revocation after inaccurate background check errors. A copy of the Court’s ruling can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss whether your rights have been violated and whether you also may be entitled to monetary damages.

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Another Mortgage Company Abusing Our Deployed Military

Unfortunately, our office has had to file yet another lawsuit over a mortgage company abusing deployed military members in violation of the California Military and Veterans’ Code 800-811.
In this case (review the complaint HERE), Freedom Mortgage Corporation actually informed the clients in writing that their principal and interest were deferred pursuant to California law.
While deployed, the military members continued to pay the principal and escrow each month, even though only the escrow was required. However, each month, Freedom Mortgage persisted in sending collection statements demanding that the military family pay the full amount of the accumulated principal plus interest that is to be deferred and claimed that by the first of each month the entirety of the deferred amount was due. The amounts demanded also did not account for the fact that the principal was being paid each month.

Furthermore, Freedom Mortgage began falsely reporting to the credit reporting agencies that the military family was more than 180 days past due on their mortgage payments in an amount in excess of $28,000.00, even though the amounts demanded by Freedom Mortgage on the collection statements was under $20,000.00. It is still unknown as to how Freedom Mortgage believed more than $28,000.00 was owed in order to justify such reporting to the credit reporting agencies. However, no matter how you look at it, such reporting is false and unlawful because California law specifically prohibits deferred payments from being the source of negative credit reporting during the period of deployment.

Once the deferment period expired, Freedom Mortgage continued to persist that the entire amount of what they calculated to be the deferred payments was due (which still did not account for any of the principal payments made during deployment) and now started to add late fees and penalties and also served as a source of foreclosure threats.
Promptly upon expiration of the deferment period, Freedom Mortgage sent correspondence falsely claiming that the military family had not paid any principal or interest for more than 6 months (which is false not only because they had paid principal the entire time but also because such payments were deferred), and used this as a basis to insist upon the entire amount being paid by the first of the next month or else foreclosure proceedings might occur.

Not taking these false and unlawful threats laying down, the military family decided to retain our firm due to our experience in fighting back on such violations. We promptly filed a lawsuit and a motion for preliminary injunction to seek a court order for Freedom Mortgage to stop its abusive tactics.
If you are someone you know is suffering such abuses, or is about to be deployed, do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights and to discuss how you can be protected!

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Raceway Nissan Alleged to Commit Fraudulent Transmission and Air Conditioning Unit Repairs

A lawsuit filed on August 2, 2019 by two former auto repair technicians of Raceway Nissan in Riverside alleges that they were subject to retaliation and termination for refusing to engage in fraudulent transmission and A/C unit repairs, among other reasons.

The lawsuit alleges that certain supervisors and managers of Raceway Nissan force their technicians to put metal shavings into certain transmissions so that they can read “failure”, so that the technicians can then obtain customer approval for repairing the transmissions even though they truly do not need to be repaired.

The lawsuit also alleges that technicians have also been told by their supervisors and managers to hook the A/C testing machine up to an old car in the back so that the A/C tests will show that the A/C units need to be repaired, so that the technicians can then obtain customer approval for those repairs.

A copy of the lawsuit can be read by clicking HERE. If you or your family members have had a repair done by Raceway Nissan to either the transmission or A/C unit, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the circumstances further.

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Welk Resort Knowingly Damaging Its Customers’ Credit Reports

A lawsuit filed on August 5, 2019 alleges that Welk Resort Group has still been damaging its customers’ credit reports with knowingly false information.  A copy of the Complaint can be read by clicking here.

In essence, the lawsuit alleges that, after the customer fell behind on his payments, Welk delivered to him a letter that offered to retake the property in exchange for Welk waiving any and all rights to pursue him for any deficiency on what he may owe on the account and also in exchange for Welk considering the account as “fully satisfied”.

The offered conveyed by Welk in writing offered for the customer to simply allow Welk to retake the property within 20 days in order to accept the offer.  Despite the customer doing exactly what was required of him to accept the offer, Welk proceeded to furnish knowingly false information to the credit reporting agencies that he still owed a significant balance.

However, the terms of the offer drafted by Welk should have resulted in Welk reporting that the account was closed and that the customer owed a $0.00 balance on the account.

When the customer discovered that this false reporting of an outstanding balance was causing him harm in his attempts to apply for a new mortgage, he attempted to obtain Welk’s agreement to fix the problem informally.  In response, Welk attempted to bilk him out of more than $13,000.00 by conveying to him a settlement agreement that, if signed, would have required the customer to pay that sum of money to Welk in a new contract.

However, the undeniable fact that Welk had already waived any such money and released him from any obligation to owe any such money meant the customer did not owe this money and it therefore amounted to Welk attempting to collect an unlawful amount of money from him that he did not owe!

If you or a loved one has faced similar problems with Welk, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights!

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Finding the Right Attorney

Finding a Consumer Attorney

With the increased use of consumer review sites, an individual can find a good lawyer in 10 minutes.  They can look at reviews that the attorney has on sites such as Yelp, AVVO, Google-reviews, and even the attorney’s own website.  Review sites are easy to access and almost always free of charge.  It is highly recommended that an individual takes the time to read the reviews available when searching for an attorney.

Most law firms have a website that describes the attorney’s experience and what the attorney’s reason is for believing that she or he is the best for the job. An individual should feel confident in going to a consumer lawyer, or any lawyer for that matter, and asking the tough questions as if it was a job interview. That’s because it really is somewhat like a job interview for a job that the lawyer is trying to obtain.

The consumer should have no problem asking how many years the lawyer has been practicing, how many cases they have filed, how many times they have sued a defendant, and whether they have ever gone to trial. Most individuals think that all lawyers go to trial, but that is not the case. Approximately 90% of lawyers have never gone to trial, and many who have gone to trial have not gone enough times to develop and sharpen quality trial skills. It is vital for a potential client to know such information from his potential attorney.

Imagine looking for a brain surgeon, you would want to know if that surgeon has done other brain surgeries before going to them. The same applies for a lawyer. Make sure that when you speak to someone at the law firm, you talk to a lawyer, not a paralegal, law clerk or an assistant. Make sure that you can contact the lawyer after your meeting with additional questions, whether through email, cell phone calls or text messages. These are the things that our firm gives to our clients, which builds trust and confidence.

In some ways, engaging in potential or actual litigation is like going into a relationship with that law firm or that lawyer. You need to have a sense of connection with that individual. You need to feel they care about you, believe they understand you, feel comfortable and confident standing next to that individual in front of a courtroom full of jurors or a judge, and you must feel like they can advocate for you. You want them to be able to tell your story even when the other side is trying to derail it. The only way to do that is to speak to the lawyer on the phone or see them in person so that you can get a sense from them. Are they compassionate about you? Do they care about you? Are they willing to fight for you? If you get that sense from a lawyer, then you are in good hands. That’s something an individual can use in evaluating any lawyer for any purpose, not just a consumer law lawyer.

Role of a Consumer Law Attorney

One role of a consumer law attorney is to counsel people and inform them of their rights. Most individuals don’t know that debt collection harassment laws can protect them or that inaccurate credit reporting laws allow them to recover monetary damages.  Another role of a consumer law attorney is to help the client pursue violations of these laws. Some of these laws require very specific steps to be taken before rights are triggered to protect and ultimately compensate the consumer.

A consumer attorney should take the proper steps to ensure that the client understands the law and knows what steps need to be taken for his rights to be protected.  If necessary, the attorney’s role is to represent the client to escalate the situation into formal litigation whereby the client can use the power of the courts to obtain the appropriate amount of monetary damages for the consumer. Sometimes that means facilitating a settlement, and sometimes that means preparing a case to be presented to a jury at trial.

Skills to Look for in an Attorney

Obviously, an attorney who seeks to represent consumers should be familiar with the law. Not all attorneys are educated in all areas of the law. Therefore, it is generally recommended that a consumer-related case be handled by an attorney who has dedicated his practice to focus on consumer rights.

A consumer attorney will most likely have regular exposure to the technical nuances that sometimes prevent consumers from being able to fully take advantage of the laws that are in place to protect their interests.  Unfortunately, the number one goal for a corporate defendant usually is attempting to avoid liability by taking advantage of failures of the consumer in following strict and technical compliance of the various prerequisite steps in hopes of eliminating the consumer’s ability to be fully compensated and fully protected.

A consumer attorney should know of, and be prepared for, technical defense strategies and know how to avoid them. An attorney should inform the consumer about potential pitfalls and lead them to a position where no technical flaws exist, leaving the defense to have no other choice but to address the consumer’s case on its merits and value.

It is significantly helpful if the attorney has previously represented clients at trial.  If a lawyer doesn’t regularly go to trial or has not had any real experience in prosecuting cases to trial, then they are ultimately at a serious disadvantage, as they lack the experience to know what to do if the case is not able to be settled before trial.  An attorney who lacks the knowledge and experience to go to trial is no different than a gun that lacks bullets—the unloaded gun gives the impression to others that it could cause harm, but without bullets, it lacks the necessary ability to complete the job that it was assigned to do.

The ability to prepare a client’s case and ultimately present the case at trial are things that we bring to the table. We not only know how to prosecute a case to the end, but we look forward to it.  We have each completed over 30 trials, which means that we are familiar with what it takes to prepare a case, what constitutes admissible evidence, how to present the evidence at trial, how to argue trial motions and objections in front of the judge, and, most importantly, how to persuasively present our client’s story to a jury.

Until you have repeatedly represented a client before a jury, you will not appreciate the value and power that a jury trial has in resolving a dispute in litigation.  After repeated trials, we know that a trial before members of the community is sometimes the most powerful weapon that a consumer has against corporate America. It is the consumer’s peers that can, and most times do, hold corporations responsible for taking advantage of consumers and refusing to take responsibility for the harms they have caused.  It is for this reason that an effective consumer attorney must also be a trial attorney; otherwise, they are seriously putting their client at a disadvantage.

Can I Afford an Experienced Attorney?

In the majority of cases, experienced consumer law firms pay for all the costs and fees associated with the lawsuit (including hiring experts, funding depositions, traveling to different states to take depositions and presenting a case to trial) without charging the client anything up front.  So, the answer is almost always yes.  In such “contingency” fee cases, the attorney is only paid for his time and reimbursed his out of pocket costs if the litigation results in a successful recovery.

Impact of Experience, Reputation and Skill

We look at every lawsuit like a chess match. We evaluate the defense firms, evaluate the defense attorneys, and rank their ability to persuasively present a defense.

We presume that the defendants are doing the exact same thing by evaluating our firm. They are evaluating the way we have prosecuted cases in the past and evaluating our ability to pursue the lawsuit all the way to a jury trial. It’s a huge factor that plays into cases that is not acknowledged but considered when it comes to negotiations. Defense attorneys won’t admit, “I’m settling the case with you because I know you’ll pursue the case to trial.” However, it’s common sense that they are taking such a factor into consideration.

In fact, I used to work for insurance defense firms defending personal injury cases, and he learned that the considerations by the defense industry always involved evaluating the lawyer representing the plaintiff, including their ability to prosecute the case to trial. A good trial lawyer would get a higher value settlement than a lawyer that clearly didn’t have the experience or the ability to pursue the case to trial.

How Do I Know If It’s Necessary to Hire a Consumer Law Attorney for My Case?

You might discover that it’s necessary when you yourself try to send a written dispute asking the credit reporting agencies or the furnishers to correct an error and they refuse to do so or simply ignore you. In such circumstances, you might feel lost and helpless as to what else could be done to protect yourself and assert your rights.  Therefore, it is advisable to seek the assistance of an attorney from the very beginning. This is because you want somebody who is navigating the laws and pitfalls in the right way. You want somebody who is going to stand by you if the companies ignore you, and you want somebody who is going to seek monetary damages for you if your requests are ignored or mishandled.

For more information on Finding The Right Consumer Law Attorney, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling our office at (951) 293-4187.


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Mortgage Servicers Continue to Ignore Deferment Protections for California Military under State Law

It should go without saying that the stress and worry of being deployed is high enough on its own. Add to that stress the concerns over mortgage loans, vehicle loans, credit cards, student loans, and leaving property in storage for several months. Fortunately, California law provides such protections to military reservists that goes much farther than the protections afforded by the Federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
For instance, California Military and Veterans Code 800 provides military reservists called to active duty very strong protections with respect to up to 6 months of deferment on mortgage loans, residential lease contracts, automobile loans, credit cards, and other consumer debts. During this time, no penalties can be assessed against the account for non-payment, the account cannot be reported as delinquent or negative to credit reporting agencies, and no foreclosure proceedings on a mortgage loan can be undertaken. These protections apply equally to the deployed servicemember’s spouse and dependents.
One way that the California law is stronger than the Federal law is that, unlike the Federal law, the State law does not require petitioning the courts to first obtain an order of deferment, because the protections are required to be given if the servicemember simply provides a letter to the creditor, sworn under penalty of perjury, specifically requesting such a deferment and includes a copy of the deployment orders therein. If the credit/loan obligation was incurred before the date of the deployment orders, then the protections are mandatory.
Unfortunately, however, we have seen a disturbing pattern over the years where out-of-state mortgage servicing companies fail to understand California laws in this regard and fail to honor and respect these State laws. But our firm is here to help, as we have extensive knowledge and experience in these laws. We even met with the Colonel who was integral in the writing and passing of these laws to gain a better understanding and insight into their application. This means you and your loved can trust in our ability to handle these claims and advocate on your behalf.
Recently, we filed two new lawsuits against such mortgage companies who just can’t seem to get it right. On November 8, 2018, we filed a lawsuit against Pacific Union Financial, LLC, which you can view by clicking HERE. On November 10, 2018, we filed a complaint against Selene Finance, LP, which you can view HERE.
In each case, the spouse left home during the servicemembers’ deployment has had to endure the completely unnecessary stress and aggravation of dealing with repeated false claims of delinquency and false claims of the amounts owed on each mortgage loan. During a time that is hard enough for the non-deployed spouse to be left home addressing all the family financial responsibilities alone, they were forced to endure more stress that they should have been able to trust would not have arisen. If you or a loved one are experiencing similar problems, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your rights and whether our firm can help protect you as well.

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The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that anytime an employer makes a decision to not hire an applicant due to results of a background check, the employer must provide the applicant an opportunity to dispute the findings.

The employer has the legal responsibility to provide the applicant with what is called an “adverse action notice”.  This notice explains the applicant’s rights under the FCRA if the employer decides to take an action determined to be “adverse”.  An “adverse action” constitutes a decision of the employer to not hire, promote, retain or reassign the applicant based on the results of a background check report.

The “adverse action notice” must be delivered to the applicant before the adverse action is actually taken.  This procedure is intended to provide the applicant with a copy of the background check report and “A Summary of Your Rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act”.

By requiring the notice and report to be provided before the action is actually taken, the intent is to allow the job applicant a reasonable amount of time to contact the background check agency to dispute any inaccurate information in the report.

Our office has recently filed a class action lawsuit against HKA Enterprises, LLC for failing to comply with these requirements of the FCRA.  HKA Enterprises utilized information contained within a background check report to not hire our client, but it failed to provide the required adverse action notice and a copy of the report to our client.  Please review the Complaint by clicking HERE.

If you have suffered a similar set of circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a free and confidential consultation to determine whether your rights have also been violated in such a way.

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California anti-discrimination laws are very strong, and they make it illegal for an employer to take adverse employment action against you if you are a member of a protected class, or category of persons.  In general, it is unlawful to discrimination against an employ based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and other protected categories.  Disabilities also entitle employees to protection and reasonable accommodations, whether the disability be a physical or cognitive disability or pregnancy.

Discrimination may take many forms, including being denied a job, terminated from a position, demoted, denied a promotion, or assigned to a position that is not as favorable or financially lucrative as another position to which you qualify.

Our office has recently filed two discrimination-based cases.  In one case, our client alleges that Miles Preservation, Inc. discriminated against her due to her status as a pregnant and expecting mother.  The allegations of discrimination include terminating her before her pregnancy leave date began, which is a mandatory right for all women to exercise without fear of retaliation.  You can read the complaint by clicking HERE.

In another, more recent case, our client alleges that Pipeline Carriers, Inc. discriminated against him for suffering a cognitive disability, refused to grant him reasonable accommodations, and refused to grant him proper medical leave.  Even though our client had a doctor’s note mandating that he remain off work for a specified period of time, the company considered him to have “abandoned” his job and terminated him and refused to accommodate his request for medical leave.  You can read this complaint by clicking HERE.

If you or a loved one feel that you have suffered discrimination or retaliation for simply being a member of a protected class, or for suffering a disability, 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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On September 17, 2018, our firm took over representing two out of many drug and alcohol treatment centers who allege they were taken advantage of by Health Net in being falsely denied claims for treatment being provided to recovering addicts. After passage of the Affordable Care Act, substance abuse treatment became an essential health benefit required to be included in individual health plans. Health Net began to offer better benefits for such coverage than its rivals and committed to paying reimbursement at a rate of 75% of the billable amount. At some point, however, in 2015 and 2016, Health Net began denying all claims across the board from any and all substance abuse treatment facilities. Health Net began to deny all claims as suspicion of fraud, and swept all such claims into the Special Investigation Unit and demanded burdensome amounts of records to justify payment.

Even though Health Net would initially provide preliminary authorization for such claims, which would then result in the facilities accepting the patients and beginning treatment with the understanding that their treatment would be reimbursed at the 75% billable rate, Health Net then began denying all claims en masse under the guise of suspected fraud. Curiously, however, this all came at a time when Health Net was being purchased by Centene for $6.3 billion, which has resulted in the suspicion that Health Net was simply trying to make itself appear more profitable on paper during the acquisition by Centene. Eventually, Health Net began to remove treatment facilities out of the SIU, but then implemented a policy to only pay reimbursement at the Medicare rate of 8% of the billable amount. Sadly, this has resulted in many facilities being forced out of business and turning their drug addicted patients away without any further meaningful hope for treatment.

While Health Net continues to deny it engaged in any wrongdoing, it appears the California Department of Insurance for one disagrees with Health Net’s position. The CDI has pursued enforcement actions against Health Net, and in so doing has alleged that Health Net engaged in “unfair or deceptive” business practices by failing to settle provider claims fairly in which its liability “had become reasonably clear.”

For more information and a more detailed summary of the history of these issues, feel free to read the LA Times Article from December 6, 2017, by Michael Hiltzik, by clicking HERE.

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