Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #10-1

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #10-1
January 10, 2011

Maureen Martin

Maureen Martin passed away on February 5, 2013. The Heartland Institute's page in tribute to her... (read full bio)

“No one’s trying to get rich off this,” said a lawyer trying to recruit clients for a class-action lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York.

The potential clients are those who were trapped on public transit for seven hours during the city’s blizzard over Christmas weekend. The lawyer says the suit’s purpose is “to hold the MTA accountable for what happened. We’re really trying to get the MTA’s attention for the average New Yorker.”

More than 500 riders were stranded on transit cars without food, water, heat, or bathrooms during the storm. “The MTA didn’t offer these people so much as a MetroCard,” the lawyer said.

Source: Matthew Lysiak and Larry McShane, “Manhattan attorney seeks justice for stuck straphangers on stalled A Train during blizzard,” New York Daily News, January 2, 2011

Signed, Sealed, and Deceptive

A debt collection firm recently submitted thousands of affidavits in debt collection cases, all signed by a woman who has been dead since 1995.

The firm, Portfolio Recovery Associates, was sued for fraud in 2008 by a woman whose credit card debt was supposedly affirmed in an affidavit signed by “Martha Kunkle.” Unable to locate this person, the debtor’s lawyer found and interviewed her daughter, who said her long-deceased mother’s name was commonly used on debt collection affidavits.

Attorneys general in numerous states are investigating this practice, called “robo-signing,” in which one individual signs hundreds of affidavits in a single day, allegedly without adequately verifying the validity of the underlying debt. This practice first surfaced in foreclosure cases but is thought to be more common in debt collection cases, some judges say.

In an affidavit in one suit, “Martha Kunkle, Designated Agent” stated on oath that the amount “reflects a true and correct accounting of the cardholder’s credit card amount.”

The practice seems to be occurring in debt collection cases filed by firms that acquired bad debts in bulk, with little information beyond the name of the borrower and the amount of the debt.

More troubling than the bad affidavits, however, is what a magistrate judge in Iowa didn’t do. “I’ve watched and wanted to tell defendants in these suits to demand proof of the underlying debt because that proof is so often flimsy,” he said. Though he claimed court rules preclude him from instructing debtors on proof, nothing prevents him from ruling in favor of debtors in such cases. Indeed, he is obliged to rule for debtors if proof is insufficient.

Source: Jessica Silver-Greenberg, “Dead Soul Is a Debt Collector; Deceased Woman’s Name Was Robo-Signed on Thousands of Affidavits,” Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2011

Opposites Attacked

Hardball litigation techniques are one thing, but when it gets personal and rude between opposing counsel, look out.

Two lawyers on opposite sides in a case recently were sanctioned by the Florida Supreme Court for name-calling, such as “scum-sucking loser” and “retard.” Other examples:

  • One accused the other of appearing to have a disability due to “closely spaced eyes, dull blank stare, bulbous head, lying.”
  • “Do not hate me, hate your genetics. However, I would look at the bright side, at least you definitely know the kid is yours.”

One lawyer was publicly reprimanded and ordered to take a class on professionalism. The other was suspended for 10 days and ordered to take an anger management class.

Source: David Lat, “Lawyers of the Day: ‘Scum Sucking Loser’ and ‘Retard’; Email insults lead to sanctions for two Florida attorneys,” Above the Law, January 3, 2011

Sore Loser

An unsuccessful New York State GOP candidate for Congress is suing 16 people for libel and defamation he claims caused him to lose the election. He wants $1 million in damages from each defendant.

The Republican candidate, Jim Russell, lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). He is suing, among others, Lowey; two television reporters for News12; a columnist, a cartoonist, and two reporters for the White Plains Journal News; a regional news reporter; a writer for Salon.com; a representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and representatives of the state and county Republican parties.

Russell wrote an article 10 years ago opposing racial integration. This led, he alleges in his complaint, to charges he is “racist, anti-black and anti-Jewish.”

Source: Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, “Ex-candidate Russell adds Lowey, others to libel suit,” (White Plains) Journal News, December 16, 2010 via overlawyered.com

Message Received

A Saudi man’s text message to his wife divorcing her was legally sufficient to terminate the marriage, a Saudi court has ruled.

The man’s message came after the couple had argued, but the man later said he didn’t really mean to divorce her. When he tried to retract the divorce, the wife asked the court to affirm it. The court did, finding it was a “real divorce.”

Source: “Man divorces wife by SMS,” emirates 24/7.com, December 25, 2010 via overlawyered.com

Immoral Hazard

A woman who took a job at a televangelist network is suing the network, claiming she was fraudulently induced to work there based on false assurances it was a “moral” place of employment.

Her suit came after the network’s head evangelist confessed on air he had been unfaithful to his wife because he was having an affair with another network employee. The woman plaintiff alleges the evangelist and his lover had both assured her the network “was operated in conformity to the highest standards of Christian behavior, making specific reference to chastity, modesty, and purity.”

The theory of her case is called “truth-in-hiring,” but it is novel because this theory previously has been applied only to assurances of the employer’s financial and economic stability.

Source: Matthew Heller, “Woman Sues TV Preacher for Failing to Disclose Affair,” onpointnews.com, December 16, 2010

Sworn Duty

Pennsylvania state police have agreed to stop ticketing for disorderly conduct those who utter four-letter words in public.

The agreement came in settlement of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state. The ACLU alleged such tickets, which can lead to jail terms, violate free speech. The ACLU had sued on behalf of persons who cursed an overflowing toilet, a biker who swerved toward a pedestrian, and police issuing a parking ticket.

“Using profanity toward someone, whether an officer or not, is just not one of those things that you can put someone in jail for,” an ACLU lawyer said. “It may not be very smart, but you have a constitutional right to do that.”

State police had ticketed more than 700 persons in a single year. In the agreement, the state agreed to retrain officers and monitor disorderly conduct tickets.

Source: Maryclaire Dale, “Pa. police to end tickets for cursing,” Associated Press, January 4, 2011 via legal blog watch


Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at http://www.heartland.org
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, Diane Carol Bast

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:
http://www.atra.org
http://www.alec.org
http://business.pacificresearch.org/civil-justice-and-legal-reform
http://www.calatx.com
http://www.halt.org
http://www.iamlawsuitabuse.com
http://www.overlawyered.com
http://www.fed-soc.org
http://www.manhattan-institute.org
http://www.wlf.org
http://www.sickoflawsuits.org

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603


Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at http://www.heartland.org
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, Diane Carol Bast

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:
http://www.atra.org
http://www.alec.org
http://business.pacificresearch.org/civil-justice-and-legal-reform
http://www.calatx.com
http://www.halt.org
http://www.iamlawsuitabuse.com
http://www.overlawyered.com
http://www.fed-soc.org
http://www.manhattan-institute.org
http://www.wlf.org
http://www.sickoflawsuits.org

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603

Maureen Martin

Maureen Martin passed away on February 5, 2013. The Heartland Institute's page in tribute to her... (read full bio)