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Attorney: Marion County small claims 'forum shopping' problems persist

Dave Stafford
February 27, 2013
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A Chicago attorney who has filed at least six federal class-action lawsuits alleging collections companies engaged in “forum shopping” in Marion County Small Claims Courts said the practice appears to be continuing despite township court reforms announced last year.

Daniel Edelman of Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin LLC has brought the suits in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The suits allege that collections companies engaged in practices of filing actions in a particular township court against defendants who neither lived in the township nor signed contracts in the townships where the collections actions were filed.

New small-claims court rules were announced in October and take effect in March, though courts have already implemented some of the changes.

“I have been informed of instances (of forum shopping) by various local attorneys,” Edelman said. He said it wasn’t clear whether new rules for township courts have had an impact on forum shopping.

“Our viewpoint was forum shopping could have been prohibited all along. All that was necessary was to enforce the federal restriction,” Edelman said.

The suits filed by Edelman are brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The act allows class-action suits that may recover a maximum of actual damages suffered by class members plus the lesser amount of 1 percent of the net worth of defendants or $500,000. Individual litigants may recover up to $1,000 plus actual damages.

Settlements are pending court approval in two suits. Under terms of one proposed settlement, allegations of forum shopping would cost one set of defendants $43,000 in damages plus payment of plaintiffs’ legal fees. Another collections defendant would pay just over $2,700 in damages and $7,000 in attorney fees and costs.

The more sizeable proposed settlement is in Richard O. Bovey v. Medshield Inc., Jacob, Hammerle & Johnson, LLC, Derek F. Johnson, Jeffrey S. Jacob and Christopher Hammerle, 1:12-CV-728-DML. Richard Bovey’s suit alleges he is a Lawrence Township resident who incurred a medical debt in that township but was sued in Decatur Township.

The proposed settlement filed Jan. 17 calls for payment to anyone sued by any of the defendants in this case in a Marion County Small Claims Court from May 25, 2011, to June 8, 2012. According to the proposed settlement, Bovey will receive $4,500; four additional plaintiffs will receive $1,000 each; and $21,000 will be paid to a class fund. The settlement stipulates that the class fund represents 88 percent of the possible recoverable amount.

Defendants in Bovey identified about 7,100 class members. Plaintiff’s counsel estimates 10 percent of class members will submit a claim, in which case the payment per claimant would be about $30. The settlement includes plaintiff’s attorney fees and costs totaling $13,500.

In Theon C. Parker v. Inland Collection Services, 1:12-CV-924-TAB, the defense proposes to settle with 29 class members defined as those Inland Collection Services sued in a Marion County Small Claims Court between July 8, 2011, and Oct. 5, 2012. Theon Parker’s suit alleges that he is a resident of Hendricks County who was sued for a medical debt incurred in Pike Township, but the matter was filed in Decatur Township.

Under the proposed settlement filed Jan. 16, Parker and another named plaintiff would receive $1,000 each and the class members would be mailed checks in the amount of about $27 from a class fund of $729. The proposed class fund represents 100 percent of the possible recoverable amount under FDCPA. Defendants also would pay $7,000 in attorney fees and costs.

Edelman has brought similar actions involving collections filings in Franklin, Perry and Pike township courts.

Attorney Peter Velde of Kightlinger & Gray LLP in Indianapolis defended both suits in which settlement offers are pending as well as two other FDCPA actions brought by Edelman’s firm. Velde declined to comment on the pending settlements or similar litigation.

Defendants in both settlement proposals deny liability.•

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  1. This is the dissent discussed in the comment below. See comments on that story for an amazing discussion of likely judicial corruption of some kind, the rejection of the rule of law at the very least. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/justices-deny-transfer-to-child-custody-case/PARAMS/article/42774#comment

  2. That means much to me, thank you. My own communion, to which I came in my 30's from a protestant evangelical background, refuses to so affirm me, the Bishop's courtiers all saying, when it matters, that they defer to the state, and trust that the state would not be wrong as to me. (LIttle did I know that is the most common modernist catholic position on the state -- at least when the state acts consistent with the philosophy of the democrat party). I asked my RCC pastor to stand with me before the Examiners after they demanded that I disavow God's law on the record .... he refused, saying the Bishop would not allow it. I filed all of my file in the open in federal court so the Bishop's men could see what had been done ... they refused to look. (But the 7th Cir and federal judge Theresa Springmann gave me the honor of admission after so reading, even though ISC had denied me, rendering me a very rare bird). Such affirmation from a fellow believer as you have done here has been rare for me, and that dearth of solidarity, and the economic pain visited upon my wife and five children, have been the hardest part of the struggle. They did indeed banish me, for life, and so, in substance did the the Diocese, which treated me like a pariah, but thanks to this ezine ... and this is simply amazing to me .... because of this ezine I am not silenced. This ezine allowing us to speak to the corruption that the former chief "justice" left behind, yet embedded in his systems when he retired ... the openness to discuss that corruption (like that revealed in the recent whistleblowing dissent by courageous Justice David and fresh breath of air Chief Justice Rush,) is a great example of the First Amendment at work. I will not be silenced as long as this tree falling in the wood can be heard. The Hoosier Judiciary has deep seated problems, generational corruption, ideological corruption. Many cases demonstrate this. It must be spotlighted. The corrupted system has no hold on me now, none. I have survived their best shots. It is now my time to not be silent. To the Glory of God, and for the good of man's law. (It almost always works that way as to the true law, as I explained the bar examiners -- who refused to follow even their own statutory law and violated core organic law when banishing me for life -- actually revealing themselves to be lawless.)

  3. to answer your questions, you would still be practicing law and its very sad because we need lawyers like you to stand up for the little guy who have no voice. You probably were a threat to them and they didnt know how to handle the truth and did not want anyone to "rock the boat" so instead of allowing you to keep praticing they banished you, silenced you , the cowards that they are.

  4. His brother was a former prosecuting attorney for Crawford County, disiplined for stealing law books after his term, and embezzeling funds from family and clients. Highly functional family great morals and values...

  5. Wondering if the father was a Lodge member?

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