Click here to read the Associated Press article by Russ Bynum.
Click here to read the Associated Press article by Russ Bynum.
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.”
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!
We are very proud when our attorneys are recognized for their impact throughout the local community. So, we were particularly proud when BLG’s John Salter was asked to deliver the Fourth of July sermon at First United Methodist Church, an annual tradition.
Salter’s sermon has an excellent message for all of us as we celebrate the founding of our great country, and was recently published by the Marietta Daily Journal.
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
On a cool morning in September 2004, Marietta subcontractor Jack Hensley performed a daily ritual: he walked out of his house in United Arab Emirates to start the generator for he and the other subcontractors living there while they helped rebuild Iraq. But this morning was different.
Jack was surrounded by al-Quaida militants and, along with his fellow housemates, abducted. A few days later, Jack was gruesomely beaten and beheaded. His death played out in a video that played across international television screens.
Left to pick up the pieces, Jack’s widow, Pati, and daughter turned to BLG for justice. In a trial that took place in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia, BLG partners Roy E. Barnes and John F. Salter sued the country of Syria for aiding and supporting the terrorists who abducted and killed Jack.
Judge Rosemary Collyer awarded Pati and the family of another slain American subcontractor over $400 million in damages in 2008. After two years, the appeals process has finally concluded.
As partner John F. Salter stated, “It is an extraordinary testament to the fortitude of these families. No one should ever have to witness a family member suffering such unspeakable brutality. They hoped the judge’s order would send a message. Together, I think we did exactly that.”
When DeKalb County School District teachers Elaine Gold and Amy Shaye needed someone to stand up for them, they turned to BLG. BLG recently brought suit against the district in a class-action on behalf of the two career teachers.
The suit involves a promise made – but not kept – by the district when they stopped contributing to a teacher retirement plan that was part of the teachers’ benefits package. While the district is within their rights to eliminate the contributions, they are required by their own district policy to give a two-year notice to all teachers affected by the change. Rather than follow this policy, the district simply stopped paying into the retirement system.
The lawsuit, which was featured in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article today, simply seeks payment by the district for contributions over the past two years that were never paid.
BLG, on behalf of two DeKalb County educators, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the school district and board for failing to make contributions over the last two years to a district employee retirement fund.
“This is about keeping promises the board made to employees” said BLG attorney John Salter.
Congratulations to BLG partner John F. Salter, who was recognized for the fourth time and third year in a row as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers magazine.
Salter was also recognized as a Rising Star in 2006, 2009, and 2010.
Click here to view Salter’s award information on the Super Lawyers webpage.
When former Georgia Governor and BLG founding partner Roy Barnes heard about the way Georgia’s insurance laws were treating the recent widow of a Georgia State Trooper who was killed in the line of duty, he decided to do something about it.
He immediately agreed to take Keisha LeCroy’s case pro bono, and then picked up the phone to call newly-elected Governor Nathan Deal. Despite facing each other in the November 2010 Governor’s race, the two quickly developed a plan to introduce a new bill before the Georgia Legislature to change the law.
Current law requires surviving family members of state workers who are killed in the line of duty to pay an increased rate to keep the state insurance policy. Keisha LeCroy would have been required to pay $900 per month for coverage of her and her son.
Barnes Law Group operates on a simple, yet powerful philosophy: Making It Right for those who have been wronged. That means our lawyers have always been, and will always be, in the corner of the individuals and businesses that need us the most.
The Barnes Law Group, LLC
Attorneys at Law
31 Atlanta Street
Marietta, Georgia 30060
Phone: 770.BARNES LAW (227-6375)
Fax: 770.BARNES FAX (227-6373)