So, I was sitting in Lincoln County court on Tuesday to set an auto crash case for trial.
We represent a client who was hit and needs a surgery. We are hopeful to settle the case, but the insurance company will not pay enough so we are setting this case for trial and hope to get a large verdict for him.
But that is not what this story is about. As I was sitting there, an older gentleman and his wife were called up in front of the Court because Bank of America was suing them.
The bank was about to take a default judgment against him and his wife. He had been to Court a number of times on this debt. He could not afford an attorney and could not figure out the paperwork to hire Legal Service of Eastern Missouri.
The Judge advised that he would go ahead and enter a default judgement against him - even though he was right there, which I thought was weird.
So, I asked to approach the bench, mentioned I was a board member of Legal Services and asked if I could help. I met with the man and his wife.
I got the lay of the land from this man and his wife and told them a bunch of things to do to help them with their debt problem. This was the nicest couple - they had not done anything wrong or run up debt improperly. The wife had open heart surgery and medical costs and the husband just did his best to pay the bills. Both were disabled.
I learned that they hired a debt consolidation protection service out of Nevada and paid them every month. But, every time he gets sued by a bank, company he hired does not do anything and he has to come to Court and represent himself.
He had fought his Sam’s Club credit card company and now he was fighting Bank of America.
The fact that credit card companies, banks, and large finance institutions use our Courts to harass Americans on their debt really disturbs me. I go to court a lot all over this half of the state. I often see Courts bring up many Americans to chastise them about the fact that they cannot pay all their debts and are being sued.
People who get sued by credit card companies or other loan companies have to take time off work, go to Court, get called out in public, sheeplessly walk up and get lectured in front of the Court, and feel inadequate and irresponsible.
Credit card companies advertise and solicit these people, they strategically alter the interest rates, try to get you to get a credit card on every college campus and airport, and do aggressive marketing to get customers in the first instance. They don’t care if you can afford the card or know how to spend responsibly.
Our judges and lawyers sit in many courts for many hours every day across the State of Missouri and across the nation having these credit card companies use our court systems to harass Americans and make us feel like crap.
It is a disgrace and a national embarrassment.
I have sat through dockets where at least 50 people were called in front of the Court to get judgments against them with another 50 not there and defaulted. They have the threat of a Court Judgment and garnished wages or losing their houses if they do not jump through these hoops. It is demeaning.
Why is it brilliant for a corporation to run up a bunch of debt, or pay money to investors or other entities, and then declare bankruptcy?
Why is our president a smart business man for having 6 bankruptcies and filing over 3,500 lawsuits?
Why do we let corporations set up a different LLC for every investment they do allowing them to hide behind the corporate veil?
But its extremely embarrassing and a scarlet letter of shame, for an individual American to have debt, be unable to pay their bills, or to declare bankruptcy?
The drums of tort reform are being beaten again in the Missouri legislature and other states across the country as legislators open up for business again for the new year. They say personal injury cases are clogging up the Courts and taking our valuable judicial resources.
It is a lie. Credit card companies and debt holders clog up our Courts. In the State of Missouri, approximately 50% of the cases filed are debt collection actions. In Saint Louis, over 100,000 judgments were issued in debt collection lawsuits from 2008 to 2012.
Collectively, the individuals who were victims of these lawsuits lost over $50 million in wages through garnishments.
This is not just a St. Louis problem, rather Missouri residents all across the state are harassed by large debt collection agencies. For example, in 2008, a combined 15,321 debt collection actions were filed in Jackson County, St. Charles County, and the City of Saint Louis.
In 2009, 5,621 debt collection actions were filed in the Jackson County Circuit Court, cases in which 95 percent of the defendants did not have an attorney to protect their rights.The reality is, for most courts across the country, debt buyers filed more suits than any other type of plaintiff.
Why do the tort reform advocates try to restrict our access to Courts without restricting the debt collectors access to Courts anyway?
In some states you have no fault insurance and you can’t even file a lawsuit for car crashes. States have arbitrary caps and limits on damages without regard to the quantum of damages someone has actually suffered. States also have mandatory arbitration where you do not even have the right to a jury trial for cases.
In Illinois, a fairly democratic/progressive state, there is mandatory arbitration any injury case under $50,000 and all claims against your own insurance company. I have written about this before.
This gives the insurance companies the power to string people along, deny valid claims, delay payment of claims and make people hire lawyers to go though many hoops to get a recovery (after they paid premiums for 20 years to the same insurance company).
Next Newsletter - My solution