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! 

Making It Right for Victims of Predatory Lending

Barnes Law Group possesses particular expertise in the area of consumer fraud.  It’s the core of our practice, and our lawyers have reached multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in cases involving corporate dishonesty, predatory lending, and accounting fraud. The firm continues its mission to prosecute cases involving unscrupulous, fraudulent, and predatory consumer practices, especially those targeting the elderly, poor, and minorities as victims.

BLG has resolved and is currently handling several cases involving illegal loans that impose excessive and usurious interest rates.  Generally, a “payday loan” transaction involves an advance to a borrower of $500 or less which is due to be repaid within a short period of time, usually two weeks.  The borrower is required to write the lender a check in the amount of the advance, plus an additional fee imposed by the lender for making the loan.  The check is held by the lender until the borrower’s next payday.  The most recent case settled for $4 million.

Payday Lending Cases:
Evans/Reid v. USA Payday Stores
King/Strong v. Advance America

BLG Named to 2010 US News & World Report Best Law Firms

Congratulations to the BLG team.  In their inaugural Best Law Firms publication, US News & World Report ranked BLG a “National Tier 1” and “Atlanta Tier 1” law firm.

This is the first year US News has ranked law firms, and they reviewed nearly 9,000 law firms across the country to obtain their rankings.

According to US News, “Achieving a high ranking is a special distinction that signals a unique combination of excellence and breadth of expertise.”

Click here to view BLG’s award information on the US News & World Report webpage.

Barnes Law Group Wins Final Approval For $14 Million Insurance Suit

A Fulton County Georgia state court judge has given final approval for the settlement of a suit challenging the unlawful health insurance renewal premiums charged to more than 3,000 Georgians.

BLG attorney John Bevis, one of the lead attorneys for the class, says “This is a meaningful settlement with a real cash payout. It is not one of those settlements where you get coupons or a $25 discount off your next purchase.”

Class members who were insured under the UMEG IMP policy issued by Fortis Benefits Insurance Company and submit a claim will receive a refund of 112% of the amount they wrongly paid. The case has been litigated all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court.

 

BLG Wins Appeal In Medical Malpractice Case

When a child is injured during the birthing process, Georgia law requires parents to bring a claim to recover the future medical expenses within two years of the negligent act, even though the child has seven years to file suit.  But what happens when you didn’t realize and weren’t told there was medical negligence surrounding the birth?

Parents represented by BLG recently won an appeal answering this question because evidence was uncovered during the case that the medical providers concealed important information from the parents, including that the baby’s breech presentation was not determined upon admission, that there were fetal heart decelerations during the birthing process and that there was a 33-minute gap just before the birth, where no fetal heart rate was recorded.  The hospital also redacted the time stamps from the lab reports to make discovery of the negligence more difficult.

Despite that more than two years has passed, the parents still sued asserting the medical errors caused their baby to suffer brain damage and develop cerebral palsy.  The suit also claimed that the medical providers tried to hide their mistakes by saying the baby was not deprived of oxygen during the birthing process.  After BLG uncovered many misrepresentations that were made to the family, the nurse midwife and hospital defendants sought to dismiss the parents´ claims for future medical expenses as untimely.

In a 19-page opinion, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the evidence was “sufficient to create a jury question on the issue of whether Defendants´ deliberately misrepresented and withheld information.”  The appeal successfully reversed a trial court ruling that would have prevented the parents from recovering the cost of future medical care to treat cerebral palsy until she was 18 years old.

This is a significant case for other victims of medical malpractice because it expressly reaffirms that “a physician has a fiduciary duty to inform his patient of any injury or negligent mistreatment [and that the patient] has the right to rely upon what her physician tells her.”  Therefore, when a doctor, nurse or hospital doesn’t give a full disclosure about what happens in a medical procedure, the time to sue for medical negligence can be tolled.

$11M Class Action Settlement Against Fortis

A Fulton County State Court Judge has given preliminary approval for the settlement of a class action lawsuit against Fortis Benefits Insurance Company (FBIC) and others.

The case alleges that FBIC improperly raised health insurance premiums based on length of time the policy was in force and medical condition of policyholders. Notice of the settlement with an opportunity to participate in the $11 million settlement will be mailed to more than 5,700 Georgians by June 14th who purchased an Upper Midwest Employer Group Individual Medical Plan (UMEG IMP) issued by Fortis Benefits Insurance Company from 1996 through July 2008.

Daniel S. Kahn, DC, brought suit in 2004 claiming that certain Georgia laws and regulations imposed limits on the amount of renewal premiums that could be charged for small group health insurance that was marketed and sold to Georgia small business owners and individuals. The trial court certified the case as a class action lawsuit in 2008 and a settlement agreement was reached after the Supreme Court of Georgia denied review of the Court of Appeals decision to affirm a Fulton County trial court’s class certification order.

The case is reported as Fortis Ins. Co. v. Kahn, 299 Ga.App. 319, 683 S.E.2d 4 (2009), cert. denied (2010).