PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces a jury verdict in favor of the firm’s client, Heather N. Kesling.  Ms. Kesling purchased an inexpensive car for $2098 from Hubler Auto Outlet and subsequently found out that it was unsafe to drive.  The evidence at trial showed the vehicle had been driven less than 44 miles before it was permanently put in storage.

An expert testified for Ms. Kesling, and he told the jury that in his opinion the car was dangerous to drive because it could catch on fire, have a catastrophic loss of steering control or lose all power while driving on the interstate.  He also said these defects would have been obvious to any mechanic who looked at the car.  Another witness confirmed the dangerousness of the car’s defects.

In a recently released report, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) noted that Indiana consumers’ complaints about debt collectors increased more (on a percentage basis) for the period from December 2015 to February 2016 compared to the same period last year than in any other state – by a large margin.  Indiana experienced a 38% increase in debt collection complaints compared to a year ago while the next highest increase was Arizona with 27%.  Interestingly, however, Indiana’s per capita complaint rate remained one of the lowest in the nation.  The CFPB’s report does not provide an interpretation of the data, and I don’t have an interpretation or even a theory about the cause of this increase in complaints.  But it is certainly worth taking note when Indiana leads every other state in something.

The CFPB’s report also tells us who the American public is complaining about, and which debt collectors are doing better and which are doing worse.  Encore Capital Group (Midland Funding LLC and Midland Credit Management, Inc.) led the list of the most complained-about debt collectors.  Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc., Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC and Transworld Systems, Inc. rounded out the top four most complained-about debt collectors.  Southwest Credit Systems, L.P., Transworld Systems Inc. and Focus Holding Company led the list of debt collectors who generated more complaints (on a percentage basis) from October to December of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier.  On the other hand, Allied Interstate LLC, CCS Financial Services, Inc. and Resurgent Capital Services L.P. saw the largest percentage decrease in complaints compared to the October to December period a year earlier.

The report notes, not surprisingly, that the CFPB receives more complaints about debt collectors that any other area, including mortgage lenders, credit reporting agencies and credit card companies.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against Reliant Capital Solutions, LLC, a debt collector based in Gahanna, Ohio. The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that Reliant Capital Solutions violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) in two ways.  First, the plaintiff alleges that Reliant Capital Solutions falsely stated the amount of the debt when, within a five day period, in both a letter to plaintiff and on the plaintiff’s credit report, Reliant Capital Solutions variously stated that the balance owed was $5,100, $8,999 and $9,079.  Obviously, all three figures cannot be correct.  Second, the plaintiff alleges that Reliant Capital Solutions included attorney fees in the amount of $1,790.54 in the balance of the debt allegedly owed by plaintiff, even though there was no way attorney fees of that amount had been incurred. No lawsuit had been filed at that time and at most the law firm had sent plaintiff a few collection letters.

The FDCPA holds debt collectors strictly liable for falsely stating the amount of the debt – even if the balance claimed to be owed is only slightly off.  By the same token, the FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from attempting to collect collection fees, attorney fees or any other additional amount unless the fee is specifically permitted by the agreement creating the debt or otherwise allowed by law.

PRESS RELEASE

Out of state debt collectors LTD Financial Services, L.P. and Advantage Assets II, Inc. have been sued by an Indiana consumer, announces the Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff.  The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that LTD Financial Services, L.P. and Advantage Assets II, Inc. violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”).  The plaintiff alleges in her complaint that the debt, which she learned about because it had been reported to one or more credit reporting agencies, arose out of identity theft and is not her debt.  She contacted LTD Financial Services and advised them of this fact, but, the complaint alleges, LTD Financial Services promptly sent her a collection letter attempting to collect the debt that was not hers.  Further, the consumer alleges that LTD Financial Services failed to advise her of certain rights under she has under the FDCPA either in the telephone call or by letter afterward.  The FDCPA provides that a debt collector must, within five days of its initial communication with a consumer, provide certain information to the consumer such as the amount of the debt, the current entity to which it is owed and certain rights to dispute the debt and request validation of it. It is also a violation of the FDCPA to attempt to collect a debt from someone that they don’t owe – and a victim of identity theft does NOT owe the debt even though it may be in their name.  The consumer/plaintiff is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

This lawsuit highlights another important provision of the FDCPA.  The FDCPA details exactly what information a debt collector must provide to a consumer when the debt collector begins to collect a debt.  You might be surprised to learn that debt collectors often mess this up.  We review a lot of collection letters for consumers and regularly find that certain collection letters do not comply with the law.  If you have received one or more collection letters from a debt collector, we would be happy to review the letters for a potential FDCPA violation at no charge to you.  Contact our office here and let us know you would like to have a collection letter reviewed.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a class action lawsuit against Atlas Collections Inc., a Henry County based collection agency, and Attorney James E. Millikan, a Henry County lawyer who represents Atlas Collections in court.  The plaintiffs are four Indiana consumers who were sued by Atlas Collections over allegedly unpaid medical bills in Henry County small claims court.  The lawsuit, which has been filed in Henry County Circuit Court #2, alleges that Atlas Collections and Attorney Millikan violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) in multiple ways in the lawsuits filed against the plaintiffs.  The alleged FDCPA violations include collecting attorney fees and costs that were not owed, using a fraudulent assignment document from Henry County Hospital that purported to grant Atlas Collections the right to collect on the debt and suing a non-contractually-liable spouse for the contractually-liable spouse’s medical bill (before a judgment was obtained against the contractually-liable spouse and then not paid).  The Complaint also alleges claims under the Indiana Crime Victims Relief Act (for committing what would be the crime of Counterfeiting) and Fraud Upon the Court.

The four plaintiffs seek to represent several classes of persons who were sued for allegedly unpaid medical bills by Atlas and Attorney Millikan in the last year, two years or six years (depending on the claim).  The plaintiffs are seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees on their own behalf and on behalf of the class.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released its complaint statistics for the month of December 2015.  Debt collection issues far and away dominated Indiana consumers’ complaints by almost a two-to-one margin over the next highest categories of mortgages and credit reporting.  Debt collection complaints are consistently the top complaint received by the CFPB in the State of Indiana as well as all other states.  Interestingly, the CFPB’s statistics do not break down the complaints as to whether they originate from an original creditor or a debt collector.  Debt Collectors are covered by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, while creditors generally are not.  I suspect that, even so, a majority of the debt collection complaints are caused by debt collectors since debt collectors’ income is usually much more directly linked to the amount of money they collect.  This means the financial incentive for debt collectors  to push the limits of fair debt collection is often too great for them to resist.

If you have a debt collection issue, contact us here.  We may be able to help.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against North Carolina-based American Lending Solutions Corp. and Indianapolis-based Last Chance Wrecker & Sales, Inc. concerning the wrongful repossession of a motor vehicle.  ALS is a self-described “Skip Tracing/Repossession Management Firm” that works as a middleman between lienholders and towing companies.   Last Chance is a towing company.  The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that the defendants violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) when they repossessed an Indiana consumer’s truck even though the finance company they were working for did not have a valid lien on it.

The FDCPA provides that repossession companies violate the law when they repossess a vehicle they have no right to repossess.  In this case, the reason they did not have a right to repossess was because the finance company they were working for did not have a valid lien on the truck.  However, a repossession company violates that FDCPA any time it repossesses a car it shouldn’t have. This could be because the repossessor chose the wrong vehicle, the consumer was not in default under the terms of the finance agreement or because the towing company breached the peace at the time the repossession occurred.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against Greenwood-based medical debt collector Med-1 Solutions, LLC and collection attorney Shannon Melton.  The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that Med-1 Solutions and attorney Melton violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) when they filed a collection lawsuit on behalf of St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center against an Indiana consumer in the wrong county.  The FDCPA provides that a debt collector (including collection attorneys) may only file a debt collection lawsuit on consumer debt in the county where the consumer is residing or where s/he signed the contract sued upon.  In this case, the consumer/plaintiff alleges that he lived in Boone County, received medical services and signed the patient consent form in Hamilton County, but was sued by Med-1 and Melton in Marion County Small Claims Court.  The consumer/plaintiff is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

This lawsuit highlights another important provision of the FDCPA.  A debt collector violates the FDCPA if it sues you in a county OTHER than were you currently live or where you signed the contract sued upon.  The purpose of this provision is to prevent debt collectors from suing consumers in locations where it is very inconvenient or difficult for them to get to court to defend themselves.  It is a powerful part of the FDCPA.

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against Midland Funding LLC, a California based debt collector, and Bowman, Heintz, Boscia & Vician, P.C., an Indiana based debt collection law firm.  The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that Midland Funding and Bowman, Heintz, Boscia & Vician violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) when they filed a collection lawsuit against an Indiana consumer on a debt that had been paid in full five years earlier.  The consumer/plaintiff is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

This lawsuit highlights an important provision of the FDCPA.  It prohibits a debt collector from collecting or attempting to collect any amount, even only a dollar of principle, interest or fees, that is not owed.  This of course includes a debt that was never owed, was discharged in bankruptcy, was settled for the less than the full amount or was paid in full.  Plus, the FDCPA has a fee-shifting provision that means that if the consumer prevails the debt collector has to pay the consumer’s attorney fees.  That means that here at the Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff, we don’t charge you any attorney fees out of pocket to bring an FDCPA lawsuit.  If a debt collector is attempting to collect a debt from you that you don’t owe, go here to submit your potential case for a free evaluation.

 

PRESS RELEASE

Indiana Consumer Law Group/The Law Office of Robert E. Duff announces the filing of a lawsuit against LVNV Funding LLC, a Nevada based debt collector, and Stenger & Stenger, P.C., a Michigan based debt collection law firm.  The lawsuit, which has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that LVNV violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) when, during a telephone call, LVNV threatened the plaintiff with imminent garnishment of her wages when that was not possible because LVNV did not have a judgment against her.  The plaintiff also alleges that LVNV failed to advise her of certain rights she has under the FDCPA.  The lawsuit further alleges that Stenger & Stenger violated the FDCPA by falsely stating in a pleading filed with the state court (in a lawsuit Stenger & Stenger filed on behalf of LVNV against the consumer) that the consumer had received billings for the amount due.  The consumer/plaintiff is seeking an award of actual damages, statutory damages, costs and attorney fees.

The FDCPA is a powerful consumer protection statute.  Debt collectors are prohibited from making a false or misleading statement of material fact in attempting to collect a debt.  If a debt collector has made a false or misleading statement of material fact in attempting to collect a debt from you, the debt collector has probably violated the FDCPA.  Contact us if you believe we may be of assistance.