Are you part of this class action?

I talked about this great decision by Judge Bataillon in an earlier post here.

But I figured with the recent certification of the class by the new federal judge, Judge Rossiter, the case merited another round of hearty applause.

Judge Rossiter recently approved the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, and for preliminary approval of a class action settlement. What does this mean? Basically, it means that the court and the parties have agreed to parameters for defining what consumers are included in the class action and what the terms of settlement will be.

Here are the parameters (see if they apply to you):

  1. Must have an address in Nebraska;
  2. Credit Management Services served a county court complaint on you after January 1, 2008 (NCPA), or after December 18, 2010 (FDCPA);
  3. CMS’ complaint asked for attorneys fees and prejudgment interest and costs;
  4. CMS did not provide you notice of the claim 90 days before filing the county court complaint; and
  5. CMS’ complaint was an effort to collect a debt.

As ordered by the court, CMS will pay $198,000.00 into the settlement fund, to be disbursed to persons who fall into this class of consumers. CMS is also ordered by the court to distribute notices by postcard to anyone who may have been affected by this decision, so if you think you fall into this category, keep your eyes peeled when looking through your mail.

In order to be part of the class, you have to fill out a claim form. I believe the court said individuals who may be part of this class have 60 days from the day the notification postcards are mailed out to fill out a claim and become part of the class.

Again, kudos to Pam Car, attorney in Omaha, for her great work on behalf of Nebraska consumers.

Great Decision – Powers v. Credit Management Services, 8:11CV436

I’d like to offer my belated congratulations to Pam Car, for the most excellent decision Judge Bataillon entered on February 2, 2016 in Nebraska federal district court.

Bottomline: Ms. Car can move forward with certifying a class action law suit against Credit Management Services for breach of contract actions under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act.

The two cases used to represent the class show that Credit Management was or maybe still is (1) charging “accruing prejudgment interest” on collections, and (2) charging “statutory attorney fees” on top of the unpaid debt without following the statutory requirements of waiting 90 days before tacking on these additional charges. Yuck. How would you like to get a notice of some debt you supposedly didn’t pay, and then on top of that, you’re supposed to pay all of these extra charges for the delinquency? Kind of sounds like my cable and internet provider.

Here’s the language in the decision that I’m directly quoting from Judge Bataillon because I like it so much:

“The injury common to classes in an FDCPA action is the receipt of collection letters or pleadings that allegedly illegally add unauthorized collection fees to the amount claims and misrepresent that the debtor will owe amounts to which he or she is not legally liable. Keele, 149 F.3d at 593. The essence of an FDCPA claim is that a debt collector has injured an individual in the collection process.”

BOOM! Don’t be adding extra fees onto debt you’re trying to collect on! And really don’t lie to me about what I owe just so you can squeeze more money out of me.

I also like that Judge Bataillon shuts down Credit Management’s arguments that it’ll take too long to figure out who belongs in the class and how much each person would have in damages – “Evidence presented by the defendants did not establish with any particularity that a search of its records would be unduly burdensome. The evidence shows that CMS’s operations are highly computerized, with customized computer accounting and record-keeping programs and it employs several information-technology professionals.” Uh, no, it actually won’t be that hard to find the people you were duping – just have Eddie in IT do a few clicks in your server, and ah, yes, we have it. Wonderful. Thanks for your cooperation.

And finally, I can’t miss an opportunity to highlight the importance of fighting these kinds of battles for folks getting victimized by the debt collection industry. Judge Bataillon states:

“In light of the consumer-protection goals of the FDCPA and NCPA, which permit, even encourage, consumers to act as private attorneys general to pursue FDCPA claims, the court finds certifying a reasonably ascertainable FDCPA class for statutory or actual damages will serve the purposes of the Act, which is targeted at abusive debt collector activities.” {I added the bold type, for emphasis}.

These laws were enacted so that average people like myself, or you, can take a stand against fraudulent or harmful debt collection practices.

Nevertheless, it appears that CMS has appealed Judge Bataillon’s smart decision, so I guess we’ll have to collectively hold our breath again to see if the 8th Circuit thinks this class of consumers is as ascertainable as Judge Bataillon found.

Congratulations, again, to Pam Car, a true private attorney general, for a great decision keeping the debt collection industry in Nebraska checked, for the time being.