Posted on

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.

Related Tags:

Posted on

OVERSHADOWING VIOLATIONS CLASS CERTIFICATION PRELIMINARILY APPROVED

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on December 13, 2016

 

Our law firm recently received preliminary approval for class certification in the case of Capps. v. Law Office of Peter Singer, et al. The opinion can be read by clicking HERE.

The case was filed October 26, 2015, alleging that the Law Office of Peter Singer sent debt collection letters to consumers with language that overshadows and contradicts mandatory disclosures that debt collectors are required to provide to consumers to properly advise them of their rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In particular, 15 U.S.C. 1692g requires third party debt collectors, even law firms that regularly engage in debt collection on behalf of another, must include a notice in their first collection letter that the consumer has 30 days to either dispute the debt, a portion of the debt, or request validation of the debt. If the consumer does provide in writing either a dispute or a request for validation, the debt collector must cease any further efforts to collect the debt until validation is delivered to the consumer. Typically, the validation must involve delivering to the consumer the original creditor’s name and address and/or a copy of a judgment.

This is important, because often-times debts are sold and re-sold between different agencies, and the consumer may not know what the debt pertains to if they do not recognize the current creditor or current collection agency. Providing to the consumer the original creditor’s name and address, at a minimum, should help the consumer to determine whether the debt is validly owed by the consumer, if the debt was actually incurred by someone else and the collector is contacting the wrong person, or if the debt had been paid off in the past and there is a mistake in alleging the debt is still owed. Providing the consumer 30 days to send such a dispute or request for validation provides the consumer with sufficient time to consider his or her choices in how to proceed, and also provides the consumer sufficient time to gather and deliver documents to the debt collector to support a dispute.

Courts have consistently held that any other language in the first collection letter that weakens or confuses this mandatory disclosure amounts to an “overshadowing” violation of the FDCPA.

Plaintiff’s claims in this case are based on the collection letters containing language that attempted to limit the consumers’ rights to take 30 days by urging consumers to pay the debt within 7 days. In particular, the letters claimed that the Law Office of Peter Singer would be entitled to sue the consumers after 7 days if they do not pay the debt or call the debt collector to make payment arrangements. Even though the letters also contained the mandatory 30 day dispute disclosure discussed above, the fact that the letters also contained a threat of lawsuit after merely 7 days of non-payment weakened and overshadowed the consumers’ absolute right to a 30 day dispute period.

On November 21, 2016, the Southern District of California granted the Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval of class settlement. The class settlement will entitle 170 members of the class to receive $66.70 each out of the class fund of $11,606.16. Class members can opt out in order to pursue their own claim on an individual basis. A final fairness hearing will be held March 13, 2017 in order for the Court to determine whether the final payments should be distributed to the class members who have not opted out, and in order to finally dispose of the class action if the Court determines that finalizing the class settlement is fair and meets all legal requirements of Rule 23.

A copy of the motion for class preliminary approval can also be found by clicking HERE.

As always, if you or a loved one are being contacted by a debt collector, you should not hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation to determine whether your rights have been violated.

Posted on

BEEN VICTIMIZED BY A DEFAULT JUDGMENT BASED ON FRAUDULENT PROOF OF SERVICE?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on November 28, 2016

 

Sadly, we have seen numerous incidents of third party debt collectors obtaining default judgment against a consumer based on a proof of service that the consumer claims is fraudulent. This sometimes occurs when the process server simply claimed that the person was served personally, even though we have been able to obtain proof that the consumer did not reside at the address claimed to have been the place for service on the date claimed. More common, however, is that the process server had claimed that substitute service occurred by serving an unidentified JOHN DOE/JANE DOE, even though we are able to obtain proof that no-one other than the consumer resided at the residence on the date alleged, or that the consumer had actually moved from that residence before the alleged service occurred. We have also seen this occur when the process server claimed to have executed substitute service, but failed to show evidence via affidavit of reasonable diligence to first attempt personal service, which also renders the service invalid and consequently renders the default invalid.

In any event, however it may occur, many consumers who have reached out to us only first discovered the default judgment after having received notice from his/her employer that a wage garnishment was about to occur by the debt collector serving a writ of execution upon the judgment. Sometimes, a levy is also placed by the debt collector upon the consumer’s bank accounts, which freezes the finances contained therein and allows the debt collector to withdraw some or all of those finances. Clearly, this can be devastating because it can have a direct impact on the consumer’s ability to budget for living expenses and other necessary life expenses.

If this has happened to you or someone you love, then you must not delay in seeking counsel’s representation. California law requires that the consumer seek to set aside the entry of default and default judgment within six months of first discovering they have occurred. We have unfortunately seen people who have waited, thinking it would just magically go away, or that they have contacted the debt collector directly in an attempt to obtain their agreement to set aside after explaining the service was not legit and only to then be taken advantage of by the debt collector. We have also seen people who have filed hardship paperwork with the court without first contesting the default and without contesting the proof of service, which can be argued as an implicit admission that the service was valid. These are not good options….the best option is to promptly call a consumer attorney to discuss the proper course of seeking to set aside the default and default judgment. There are also very technical requirements that must be met in seeking to do this, and a failure to meet every single technical requirement can result in the motion to set aside being denied with prejudice, which means the consumer has now forever lost any ability to ever seek to set them aside.

Again, the best option is to promptly consult a consumer attorney to discuss the proper course on how to pursue the set aside based upon the consumer’s individual circumstances. One example motion to set aside can be found by clicking HERE.

If we are successful in having the entry of default and default judgment set aside, then it is possible for us to file a counter-suit against the debt collector (and possibly the process server) for engaging in unfair and oppressive conduct and misrepresentations. Many federal courts have ruled that it is not possible to file a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act before obtaining the set aside, because such a lawsuit operates as an indirect appeal of the court’s entry of default without actually having taken an appeal through proper channels. So, the best strategy is to first obtain a court ruling setting aside the entry of default/default judgment and then review the case for a counter-suit.

If you or anyone you know is in such a circumstance, please do not hesitate to contact us promptly for a free and confidential consultation to review your particular circumstances.

Posted on

DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST ASSISTED CREDIT SERVICES, INC. FOR $30,784.65 FOR MALICIOUS CREDIT REPORTING VIOLATION AND ATTEMPTING TO COLLECT A PAID DEBT

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on July 20, 2016

 

Default Judgment against Assisted Credit Services, Inc. for $30,784.65 for Malicious Credit Reporting Violation and Attempting to Collect a Paid Debt amount, even though the client’s insurance company had already paid more than half of the full debt and the client owed much less than what Assisted Credit was attempting to collect. Luckily, the client was smart enough to raise some red flags instead of just being tricked into blindly paying the full amount. Because the client did not trust Assisted Credit to be honest and ethical, she then paid the balance that she did owe directly to the medical provider. Assisted Credit then got upset and argued with her for depriving them of the ability to keep a portion for their collection “services” for not paying the debt through them.

Thereafter, Assisted Credit furnished an update to the client’s credit report with the false information that she still owed a balance on the alleged debt, even despite their irrefutable knowledge that the client had already paid the balance on the debt directly to the medical provider. Therefore, it was believed that Assisted Credit submitted the derogatory credit reporting information maliciously with the intention of causing damage to the client’s credit score because she paid the balance to the medical provider directly.

After being served with the lawsuit, Assisted Credit hired an attorney, but then for whatever reason fired that attorney and failed to participate in the lawsuit. Because a company or other organization cannot represent itself in court and must appear through an attorney (Rowland v. Cal. Men’s Colony, Unit II Men’s Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 201–02 (1993), the Court graciously gave a deadline to Assisted Credit to retain a new attorney or face default judgment. When Assisted Credit failed to comply, the Court entered default of Assisted Credit. Recently, on July 19, 2016, the Court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $30,784.65 for the violations alleged.

The Court acknowledge that “Actual damages for credit reporting violations under either statute can include emotional distress and humiliation. See Guimond v. Trans Union Credit Info. Co., 45 F.3d 1329, 1332–33 (9th Cir. 1995) (holding that “emotional distress, manifested by sleeplessness, nervousness, frustration, and mental anguish resulting from the incorrect information in her credit report” can be properly compensated). The Court agreed that the requested damages were appropriate for this client, because she “suffered frustration, anxiety, lack of focus on her livelihood, and feelings of hopelessness” and because her “consumer credit score took a hit after Assisted Credit reported the already-paid debt—a hit that Plaintiff acutely felt, as she had worked hard to rebuild her credit after a prior bankruptcy.” Further, the Court agreed that the credit reporting violations were willful: “evidence of Assisted Credit’s willful conduct in reporting a $120 debt when Assisted Credit affirmatively knew that the debt had been paid warrants punitive damages.” The Court’s well-reasoned and articulate ruling can be read by simply clicking HERE.

This represents a nice opinion confirming that the law and the Courts will protect consumers being harassed by malicious debt collectors who flagrantly violate the law. If you or a loved one are being harassed, lied to, treated unfairly, or notice inaccurate information on your credit report, you should not feel alone and helpless. The law firm of Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in protecting consumers and individuals in these situations. Consultations are always free and confidential, and can be done over the phone to reduce the burden on the client who may just need some questions answered. Do not hesitate to call and discuss your rights!

Related Tags: default judgment, federal rule of civil procedure 55, frcp 55, credit reporting violations, california credit reporting, 1785.25, inaccurate credit report, credit report attorney, FDCPA, fair debt collection practices, debt harassment, debt collection harassment, California debt harassment attorney, San Diego debt harassment attorney, Riverside debt harassment attorney, Orange county debt harassment attorney, consumer rights, consumer protection, consumer attorney
Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.