Military Lending Act Litigation – Class Action Update

On October 6, 2016 the Court held a Fairness Hearing to determine: (1) whether the Court should approve the proposed Settlement; (2) whether the Court should enter the Final Order Approving Settlement; and (3) whether the Court should approve the Distribution Plan. After considering all of the evidence, the Court ruled in favor of the military service members and their dependents and issued their Final Order Approving Settlement.

Settlement checks were issued to class members on January 6, 2017 and must be cashed prior to February 28, 2017.

After nearly 6 years of litigation, Barnes Law Group is proud to help Make It Right for these service members and their families.

 

BLG helps Cobb, Gwinnett File Suit for $50 Million Owed for Local 911 Services

MARIETTA, GA—Today, the state’s second and third largest counties filed a series of lawsuits in federal and state court against fifteen Georgia telephone service providers for failing to bill, collect, and turn over the proper 911 fees designed by state law to fund local 911 operations. The lawsuits seek to recover for Cobb and Gwinnett’s 911 systems more than $50 million for three years of alleged unpaid fees.

“These suits are necessary because the telephone service providers have a statutory and fiduciary responsibility under Georgia law to properly bill, collect, and remit 911 fees,” said Roy E. Barnes, counsel for Cobb and Gwinnett counties. “We believe, based on the evidence we have received, that responsibility has not been met. These monies need to be paid for the benefit of the counties’ 911 systems.”

Fifteen telephone service providers allegedly are misrepresenting the types and number of phone lines upon which the 911 fees are applied and are significantly under-billing customers, the suits say. The under collection of 911 fees for each line allegedly translates to a $9 million annual loss in Cobb County and an $8 million annual loss in Gwinnett County. The Counties contend these funds are necessary and should have been available for improvements to Cobb and Gwinnett’s 911 systems. The legislature approved the collection of these funds to support the critical lifesaving mission of 911 systems.

“The failure of these companies to pay their obligations could eventually result in the taxpayers of Cobb and Gwinnett counties picking up the bill. The taxpayers should not have to supplement this gap,” said Barnes.

Roy Barnes, John Bevis and Matthew Wilson of Barnes Law Group and David Worley and James Evangelista of Harris Penn Lowry are representing Cobb and Gwinnett Counties in the litigation. No taxpayer dollars will be spent on the litigation. If the lawsuits fail, neither county will owe legal fees.

The individual lawsuits are against major telecommunications carriers operating in each County, including BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC (d/b/a AT&T Georgia); Verizon Enterprise Solutions, LLC; Bandwidth.com CLEC, LLC; Broadriver Communication Corporation; Broadvox, LLC; CBeyond Communications, LLC; Charter Fiberlink – Georgia, LLC; Earthlink, LLC (and its subsidiaries Business Telecom, Inc. and DeltaCom, LLC); Inteliquent, Inc.; Level 3 Communications, LLC; Network Telephone, LLC; Peerless Network of Georgia, LLC; Windstream Communications, Inc (and its subsidiaries NuVox Communications, Inc. and Southern Digital); XO Communications Services, LLC; and YMax Communications Corp.

The lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and the Superior Courts of Gwinnett County, and Fulton County.

The Barnes Law Group, LLC– www.barneslawgroup.com
Founded in 2003 in Marietta, Georgia, The Barnes Law Group, LLC, is anchored by former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes. The firm has received national recognition and distinction for its skill and advocacy on behalf of citizens and consumers. Although small in number, BLG’s legal team is comprised of dedicated talents that create a formidable group of trial attorneys in complex litigation matters. Collectively, BLG attorneys have recovered over $1 billion for consumers and injured plaintiffs.

Harris Penn Lowry LLP — www.hpllegal.com
Founded in 2006, Harris Penn Lowry LLP, handles large-scale litigation throughout the United States. With offices in Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., the firm’s partners are sought-after, highly skilled trial lawyers, who have gained impressive reputations for past trial work, including many multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.

New York Times Exposes Scheme To Cheat Servicemembers – and YOU – out of Legal Rights

When the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Services are protecting our country, they should not have to worry about financial frauds and schemes at home. To alleviate some of this burden, Congress passed the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which grants certain legal protections to members of the military. Unfortunately, corporations including USAA and JPMorgan Chase have found a way to violate the SCRA law without being held accountable — forced arbitration.

The New York Times exposed this abusive practice in a front page story that you can read below.   As you will see, this is not limited to servicemembers’ rights. This could – and likely does – apply to you because forced arbitration is found in everything from cell phone contracts, to bank terms of service, to even nursing home admission forms.

Failed by Law and Courts, Troops Come Home to Repossessions, New York Times, March 16, 2015.

FAST SIGN v. AMERICAN HOME SERVICES

If you have received a fax from our office about a class action, it is NOT a scam and is legitimate.

Please visit the Class Administrator’s website to learn how to submit a claim.  This claim must be submitted by December 24, 2014.

Please visit www.ahsclassaction.com or call the hotline at 1/844-322-8241 for more information.

UPDATE To All Class Members in Payday Lender Case

Congrats to Roy Barnes, John Bevis and Cam Tribble on a victory at the Georgia Court of Appeals against Georgia Cash America, a large payday lender.  The Court of Appeals agreed with BLG after reviewing a persuasive, well researched brief by Cam Tribble, that the borrowers’ claims against Georgia Cash America should be tried to a jury.  After 8 years of litigation, Georgia Cash will not be able to escape a jury’s determination of their many violations of law.   Read More!

Veteran Challenges Title Loan Company In Court

Click here to read an article appearing in the Marietta Daily Journal by Katy Ruth Camp about Army Staff Sgt. Jason Cox’s lawsuit pending against Community Loans of America.

Soldier Sues Title Lender, Claiming Abusive Practices

Click here to read the article published in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution on November 17, 2011.

 

Georgia Soldier Claims He Was Predatory Lending Victim, Associated Press, 11.22.2011

Click here to read the Associated Press article by Russ Bynum.

 

Army Infantryman Strikes Back against Illegal Title Loans

Ft. Benning, Ga. (11/11/11) – Exemplifying his Infantry motto, Follow Me, United States Army Infantryman and Purple Heart recipient, SSG Jason Cox, hopes to stop predatory title loans from being made to members of the military and their dependents. Flanked by Georgia’s former Governor, Staff Sergeant Cox filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against the Atlanta-based title pawn lenders Community Loans of America, Inc., its wholly owned subsidiary, Alabama Title Loans, Inc., and 900 related corporate entities operating in 22 states.

The federal court suit, filed on Veteran’s Day in Columbus, is based on the special lending protections given to active duty service members and their dependents under the Military Lending Act of 2007, a federal law that prohibits creditors from charging more than 36% APR on title and payday loans and requiring service members to give up the title to their vehicle as security of the loan. Lawmakers passed the MLA after the Pentagon reported in 2006 that “Predatory lending undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force.”

As title loans go, Cox’s story is not unique. To help meet family financial obligations, Cox initially borrowed $3,000 against his 2002 Dodge Durango that he owned free and clear. Cox was charged over 100% APR for each 30 day loan period. After rolling the loan over multiple times, and paying hundreds of dollars each time, Cox could no longer afford to keep making the monthly payments and the Durango was repossessed from his on base housing at Ft. Benning, while he was at work and on duty. SSG Cox is asking a federal judge for permission to represent all active duty service members and their dependents in 22 states who had similar loans, and to declare the loans and the unlawful.

This case challenges the practice of making illegal “vehicle title loans” to active duty service members and their dependents in violation of the Military Lending Act. Unlike other laws where the victims of predatory lending are not allowed to go to court, the MLA expressly bans lenders from requiring service members to arbitrate without a court’s involvement. The suit is asking a federal judge to force vehicle title lenders to comply with the requirements of the MLA, stop repossessing service member’s vehicles on the loans that don’t comply, and return the money that was wrongfully taken.

The suit, jointly filed by Roy Barnes, Georgia’s former Governor, and John R. Bevis (Barnes Law Group, LLC) and attorneys Scott C. Crowley and Kyle S. Fischer (Day Crowley, LLC), is the first of its kind. Asked why he filed suit, Barnes said “It’s simple, really. Every day we ask the military to fight for our freedoms. Now it’s time for us to step up to the plate and fight for theirs.  Predatory lending against our service members and their families violates all notions of decency and ethics. This is not only wrong – it is tragic. And it must end.”

Top Georgia Verdicts of 2010

BLG partners Roy Barnes and John Bevis  have been recognized in the FCDR’s “Top Georgia Verdicts of 2010” for securing a $14 Million recovery in Kahn v. Fortis Insurance Company et. al., an insurance class action lawsuit brought on behalf of individuals and small businesses.  Kahn is ranked as the #1 highest recovery in Georgia for an insurance case, and the 7th highest recovery among all Georgia cases in 2010.  Here’s to MAKING IT RIGHT…It’s What We Do!