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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.

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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.

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BEEN SUED BY MOUNTAIN LION ACQUISITIONS, INC.?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on February 10, 2015

 

Mountain Lion Acquisitions, Inc. is known as a “debt buyer” under California law, as it is an entity that purchases charged-off consumer debts for less than the value of the outstanding debt, and then attempts to collect the outstanding amount for the full or near full value in order to reap profits. Mountain Lion Acquisitions, Inc. regularly uses the Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers as its debt collection attorney, who sends threatening letters to the alleged debtor in an effort to collect for Mountain Lion Acquisitions. It is believed that Mountain Lion Acquisitions and Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers are both owned and operated by the same person—D. Scott Carruthers—as the secretary of state business search shows D. Scott Carruthers as the agent for service of process and his law office address as the same physical entity address for both companies.

The Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers has been the subject of multiple lawsuits for what have alleged to be unfair and unscrupulous debt collection tactics, including misrepresenting the amount of the alleged debt, false threats regarding lawsuits and criminal prosecution, misrepresentations as to the alleged debtors’ rights under the FDCPA, among others.

It has come to light that Mountain Lion Acquisitions, Inc. is now also violating the California Fair Debt Buyer’s Practices Act (FDBPA)—Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.50-1788.64. The FDBPA requires that a debt buyer who files a debt collection lawsuit upon an allegedly outstanding consumer debt include certain required disclosures within the complaint, so long as the debt was purchased on or after January 1, 2014. These disclosures are required to protect the consumer, so that the consumer can make an informed decision about what the alleged debt is, where it came from, how much is actually owed, and can also allow the consumer to research the details of the alleged debt for security purposes.

In one particular example, a class action lawsuit recently filed by Hartman Law Office, Inc., Semnar Law Firm, Inc., Hyde & Swigart, and Kazerouni Law Group, APC alleges that Mountain Lion filed a complaint against the consumer on an alleged consumer debt—charged off but then purchased by Mountain Lion after January 1, 2014—and the complaint fails to include the name and address of the charge-off creditor, fails to state that it has complied with 1785.52, fails to provide the name and address of all purchasers after charge-off, and fails to state the nature of the debt and the transaction from which it was derived. All of this information, among others, are required to be included in the complaint pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.58. By failing to include these disclosures, the consumer is harmed because the complaint would not give sufficient information for the consumer to know why and for what purpose he or she is being sued by a company with whom the consumer never entered into any transactional relationship. Read the class action complaint here.

Violations of these laws entitles the consumer to recover any actual damages pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.62(a)(1); statutory damages in the amount up to $1,000.00 pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.62(a)(2); and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 1788.62(c)(1).

If you or a loved one have been contacted by the Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers for purposes of debt collection, or if you have been sued by the Law Offices of D. Scott Carruthers on behalf of Mountain Lion Acquisitions, Inc., it is imperative you contact us immediately for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.