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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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SUFFERED A JOB DENIAL OR PROMOTION DENIAL BASED ON INACCURATE BACKGROUND CHECK INFORMATION?

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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DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE CANNOT BE TOLERATED

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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TAKING ON HEALTH NET FOR ALLEGATIONS OF INSURANCE BAD FAITH

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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SUFFERING MOLD DISEASE? YOU HAVE RIGHTS!

On September 10, 2018, our firm filed a lawsuit against three defendants (the home owner/landlord, the property management company, and the property management company’s agent) related to our client contracting mold disease at a townhome in Santa Monica.

A landlord is required by law to ensure that the residence is safe and habitable, and various conditions can result in the home being rendered uninhabitable.  Mold is now specifically recognized by California law as one of those very conditions that can render a residence uninhabitable. Pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 17920.3, visible mold and dampness can render a housing unit to be substandard, which means the landlord must take reasonable and prompt actions to prevent such conditions from occurring.

The lawsuit filed by our firm alleges that our client and her roommates put the defendants on written notice of multiple leaks and floods, but the defendants failed to take reasonable and prompt action to fix the leaks.  The defendants clearly knew this residence was prone to mold growth, because they included a mold addendum to the lease that specifically advised the tenants of such a condition.

Furthermore, even a plumber even notified the defendants that the wood where the leak occurred would need refurbished and dehumidified, which should have prompted the defendants to take immediate action to prevent mold growth.  Unfortunately, however, the defendants’ lack of prompt action resulted in one leak going unrepaired for 3 days, while another leak went unrepaired for almost 2 months.  The tenants were also left to attempt to clean up the flooded water on their own without any professional services being hired by defendants.

Eventually, mold grew and festered in multiple areas, which resulted in our client getting sick and suffering multiple issues related to mold disease.  A copy of our complaint can be found by clicking HERE.

It is very important to know that mold disease is very serious and dangerous.  Anytime you suspect mold is growing in your residence, notify your landlord immediately.  Likewise, if there are any water leaks from any pipes or windows, you must promptly notify your landlord and insist that they fix the leak right away.  All notifications should be done in writing, which means email is the best method to deliver such notices.  In doing so, you are not only ensuring that your rights are protected, but also your health.

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DITECH MOTION TO DISMISS DENIED AFTER REMOVING CLIENT’S NAME FROM MODIFICATION AGREEMENT

On July 3, 2018, Judge Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California denied a motion to dismiss filed by Ditech that argued our client was not removed from the home mortgage loan even though the lawsuit alleges that Ditech undertook the specific actions of removing her name as a customer and signatory to a modification agreement entered into by the ex-husband.  Ditech argued that the modification agreement contains a clause that shows the underlying loan still applies in full force as against our client.   However, California law specifically holds that any inconsistent terms between the modification agreement and the underlying agreement are replaced by the modification agreement.  Our position was that the modification agreement only applies between Ditech and the ex-husband, because it is a basic principal of contract law that someone cannot be held liable to something they did not agree to, and therefore any term in the modification agreement that shows the original note still applies in full force only applies to Ditech and the ex-husband subject to the inconsistent terms in the modification agreement.

 

The Court agreed with our allegations, ruling that Ditech’s actions in removing our client’s name as a customer creates at least an inference worthy of discovery and litigation that Ditech intended to remove our client from the loan altogether, and that when Ditech continued reporting to the credit reporting agencies that our client remains obligated upon the loan in the full amount then Ditech furnished false/inaccurate/misleading information as against our client.  Furthermore, Judge Birotte also agreed that when Ditech continued to call our client directly seeking payment after the ex-husband went into default, Ditech engaged in unlawful debt collection in violation of the Rosenthal Act.

Read the opinion by clicking HERE.

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REPORT FINDS THAT CALIFORNIA TOPS THE LIST OF WAGE THEFT VIOLATIONS

On June 5, 2018, the entities Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and the Jobs With Justice Education Fund published a report called “Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages”.  This report discusses findings from a nearly 8-year study of companies across the country who have suffered penalties for wage-theft claims since 2000.  The report found that California hosted more than half of the offending companies.

According to the report, many mega companies such as Wells Fargo, Wal Mart, FedEx, Bank of America, Walt Disney Co., Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, 24 Hour Fitness, Oracle, Kaiser Permanente, Jack in the Box Inc., and Smart & Final boosted their profits by forcing employees to work off the clock or by not paying their required overtime.

The report further found that such wage theft violations were “pervasive” and “goes far beyond sweatshops, fast-food outlets and retailers”.

By analyzing 1,200 successful wage violation lawsuits brought against large-scale companies, the report found that $8.8 billion in penalties have been paid out between the lawsuits as well as penalties to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

The most common issue found was unpaid overtime, but also found common issues with meal/rest break violation penalties as well as employees being misclassified as independent contractors, which resulted in the employee being denied wages and benefits that must be provided to employees.

You can read a copy of the report by clicking HERE.

 

Our law firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights, whether it be wage theft violations or discrimination/retaliation.  If you or a loved one has experienced any such issues, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

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CITIZENS BANK MOTION TO DISMISS DENIED FOR INACCURATELY REPORTING DEBT AFTER FORECLOSURE

On January 30, 2018, Judge Hayes of the Southern District federal court denied Citizens Bank’s motion to dismiss our inaccurate credit reporting claims.  Based on California Civil Code 580b, when a lender decides to foreclose on a home instead of pursuing the borrower for financial damages, and if the mortgage was undertaken for the purpose of purchasing the house, then the lender cannot pursue the borrower for any deficiency between what is left of the balance of the loan after foreclosure sale.  This is known in California as the “one bite” rule—the lender only gets “one bite” at the apple in pursuing recourse for the default.

Judge Hayes agreed with our allegations that, because the lender cannot pursue the borrower for any deficiency owed on the balance of the loan, then the lender also cannot report that deficiency upon the borrower’s credit reports.  In this case, Judge Hayes found that Citizens Bank had reported false, inaccurate, and misleading information, because Citizens Bank had been reporting on our client’s credit reports that he still owed a significant balance upon the loan after the foreclosure sale, which created the misleading impression that our client was still in default upon the account even though our client had no liability at all upon the account after the Bank chose to proceed with a foreclosure sale.

You can read a copy of the ruling by clicking HERE.

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Kenosian & Miele’s Default Judgment based on faulty service set aside and case dismissed!

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on January 10, 2017

On January 9, 2018, Judge Scott of the San Joaquin Superior Court granted our Motion to Vacate Default Judgment and Dismiss the case based upon faulty substitute service. Ordinarily, California law permits default judgments based upon substitute service, but only if the substitute service requirements have been strictly followed. This means the party attempting to serve the complaint and summons must exercise reasonable diligence to achieve personal service, and can only leave the complaint and summons with a competent adult residing at your place of residence or usual address of mailing, or a person reasonably in charge of your place of business. They must then follow up by mailing the complaint and summons to your usual place of mailing.

In our case, Kenosian & Miele sued our client for a credit card debt that the client contends was never his. The bank even confirmed via telephone that they had never issued a credit card in his name or under his SSN. It is still not clear how this lawsuit came named our client. However, Kenosian & Miele attempted substitute service at a residence where he had not resided for years, even though all of the client’s public records proved that he resided in a completely different city. The client did not discover the problem until Kenosian & Miele had already obtained a default judgment and executed a levy upon the client’s bank account.

Because Kenosian & Miele failed to provide sufficient documentation to support their argument that they believed he actually resided at the address where they attempted substitute service, even though they clearly had access to the client’s true address of residency through public records, our motion to vacate the default judgment was granted for lack of proper service. On top of that, because Kenosian & Miele had failed to accomplish valid service within 3 years of filing the complaint in 2012, the case was required to be dismissed pursuant to Dill v Berquist Construction Co., 24 Cal. App. 4th 1426, 1433 and CCP 583.210(a).

If you have been served with a complaint and summons, it is vitally important that you must act on it quickly, because California law provides very strict deadlines and requirements for responding to the complaint. If you have discovered that a judgment has been entered against you already, then it is also vitally important that you must act quickly in seeking to set it aside, because again, California law provides very strict deadlines and requirements for seeking the set aside. It is best to have a lawyer help you through this process, because debt buyers and debt collection law firms usually attempt to take advantage of your lack of experience and knowledge in trying to represent yourself.

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