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.
Click here to read the article published in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution on November 17, 2011.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
BLG founding partner and former Governor Roy E. Barnes didn’t let politics stand in the way of achieving justice for slain Georgia State Trooper Chadwick LeCroy’s widow and son.
When he heard how the state was effectively ending medical benefits for the trooper’s widow and son, Barnes picked up the phone and called former rival and newly-elected Governor Nathan Deal.
The two worked closely with state legislators to re-write a state law regarding medical coverage of state law enforcement officers. The proposed law continues medical coverage at the same rate for surviving family members of state law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Today, House Bill 107 passed the Georgia Senate after having passed the House last week, and is now headed to Governor Deal’s desk to be signed into law.
As BLG partner Allison Barnes Salter put it, “This isn’t a partisan issue. Most Georgians can agree the families of those who gave their life to public service deserve this support.”
Today, the widow of Thomas “Brent” Stephens filed a civil lawsuit against Kenneth Paul Reda arising from Brent’s death in a boating collision on Lake Allatoona on the night of April 22, 2010. The suit was filed by Lori Stephens in the Superior Court of Paulding County. Also named were Reda’s wife, Melissa, and his father-in-law, who the suit alleges may be responsible because they may have owned the boat and permitted Reda to use it.
Brent Stephens and Reda were friends and fellow police officers and SWAT Team members with the Cobb County Police Department. Reda was driving the boat and Brent, along with Shelley Powell, were passengers. The suit alleges Reda drove the boat into a fixed marker at a high rate of speed at night, causing part of the marker to break off and strike and injure Brent and throw him overboard, where he drowned.
The suit also claims Reda tampered with evidence and made false statements to conceal what happened. “Rather than immediately call 911 for his friend,” BLG’s John Salter said, “Reda instructed Mrs. Powell to remove all the empty beer bottles, conspired to mislead law enforcement, falsely denied there was any alcohol on board, and lied to the 911 operator and the other first responders about what happened.” Mr. Salter is counsel for Lori Stephens, along with BLG’s Allison Barnes Salter.
According to the suit, Reda deceived law enforcement into thinking Brent jumped from the boat as prank because if law enforcement believed Brent would be found alive, Reda hoped he might avoid a blood alcohol test. Emergency crews searched throughout the night of April 22. Brent’s body was not found until the next afternoon.
According to Allison Salter, “it is awful that Brent’s family spent hours hoping to find him alive when Reda knew the truth all along. And some of the things Reda said to mislead the investigation have been unnecessary, untrue and very hurtful to the family.”
“I know Brent and Lori because we all went to South Cobb High School and are around the same age,” Allison Salter said. “It might be a long legal journey, but our goal is to collect a substantial monetary judgment that will mitigate for Lori and her young children the loss of a brave officer and, to them, a really good husband and father.”