The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement for unlawful debt collection practices by a law firm based in Lebanon, Ohio. The federal class action lawsuit alleges that the debt collector sued consumers in a county other than where they lived or signed the debt being sued on, which violates the “venue” or “distant forum” provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.
Minnillo Law Group Co., LPA brought the case on behalf of Zachary Langendorfer and similarly situated consumers. The complaint alleges that the Lebanon law firm of Kaufman & Florence filed collection suits in the Lebanon Municipal Court on behalf of a local bank. The defendants deny liability but have agreed to a settlement under which each individual who was sued or had other legal action taken in the wrong county during the two years prior to the filing of the class action will receive $600.00. Because the case was settled, the court did not determine the extent of the defendants’ liability; however, the court did issue a significant preliminary ruling holding that an FDCPA violation occurs when a debt collector takes any legal action against a consumer (including filing motions for summary judgment, seeking to conduct a debtor examination or pursuing garnishment) in the wrong jurisdiction, and not just when the debt collector first files a collection lawsuit. Read the decision here.
This ruling is important because the FDCPA has a short, one-year, statute of limitations and consumers sued in the wrong jurisdiction like the affected individuals in this case often do not learn they have been sued for months or even years, sometimes more than a year after the debt collection was filed. If the statute of limitations for an FDCPA claim against the debt collector began when the debt collection case was filed, as the defendants in this case argued, it would be possible for the one-year statute under the FDCPA to run before the debtor was ever served with the debt collection action. Thankfully, the U.S. District Court rejected this argument and established an important precedent to protect the rights of consumers.
The FDCPA is a federal law that applies to debt collectors who are collecting consumer debts. If you believe you have been a victim of unlawful debt collection practices or other consumer violations, please contact us to set up an appointment.