Plaintiff claims debt letter violated the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. $4.8K.

Summary

Law firm handling collections for bank is said to violate California debt collection laws.

The Case

  • Case Name: Lori Guzman v. Mandarich Law Group, LLP
  • Court and Case Number: Santa Clara Superior Court / 18CV322871
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, July 07, 2021
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, February 02, 2018
  • Type of Action: Class Action
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Sunil R. Kulkarni
  • Plaintiffs:
    Lori Guzman
  • Defendants:
    Mandarich Law Group, LLP
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $4,887.41
  • Net Verdict or Award: $4,887.41
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 1 1/2 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Law Office of Steven A. Simons by Steven A. Simons, Northridge.

    Consumer Law Center Inc by Fred W. Schwinn, Matthew C. Salmonsen and Raeon R. Roulston, San Jose.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Messer Strickler Ltd. by Nicole M. Strickler, Chicago, IL.

    Messer Strickler Ltd. by June D. Coleman, Sacramento.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff received a first letter from Mandarich Law Group. She brought the letter to attorney Fred Schwinn, who determined that the Rosenthal Act warning required on all California first letters from a debt collector did not comply with California law.

    In essence, California requires that the Rosenthal warning appear in at least the same type font as the debt letter. Here the letter was on 12 PT font and the Rosenthal warning was in 10 PT font. These letters were sent to 442 class members with the Rosenthal California warning in the incorrect size. These events lead to plaintiff bringing a class action against the debt collector, Mandarich Law Group.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff Guzman and various class members incurred a financial obligation in the form of a consumer credit account issued by WebBank (the “debt”). The debt to WebBank was incurred primarily for personal, family, or household purposes and is therefore a “consumer debt” as that term is defined by Civil Code section 1788.2, subdivision (f). Thereafter, Guzman and other class members were unable to pay the debt and defaulted on the payments to WebBank.

    Sometime after January 1, 2016, the debts of the various consumers were assigned, consigned, or otherwise transferred to defendant in an electronic batch for collection from Guzman and the class. Defendant sent a collection letter to Guzman and the class in an attempt to collect the debt. The collection letter was the first written communication from defendants to Guzman and the class in connection with the collection of the debt.

    The collection letter notifies Guzman and the class of their specific debt in 12-point type. The collection letter provides the Rosenthal notice required by Civil Code section 1812.700, subdivision (a) in 10-point type. The collection letter fails to provide the notice required by Civil Code section 1812.700, subdivision (a) in a type-size that is at least the same type-size as that used to inform Guzman or the class of their specific debt or in at least 12-point type.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that a) The error was unintentional; b) it was a bona fide (good faith) error; and that c) it maintained procedures and policies reasonably designed to prevent such errors. Defense also contended that Guzman was prosecuting the case in bad faith or to harass the defendant. (Plaintiff's counsel has several other class actions pending against defendant for different FDCPA violations.)  

Additional Notes

In 2018 defendant claims to have offered $5,000 with no provision for attorney's fees. In November 2018 defendant claims to have offered $10,000, again with no attorney's fees. Both offers were rejected.
 
At mediation, two weeks before trial, plaintiff demanded $5,000 plus attorney's fees via fee application to the court. Defendant offered $5,000 total for settlement of class claims and attorney's fees and costs.  
 

Under the Statute, the penalty to be imposed was the lesser of $500,000 or 1% of the defendant's net worth. Here, the defendant's net worth was $488,741. Thus the maximum penalty was $4,887.41. This amount will be distributed to the 441 other class members. Guzman will not participate in the recovery because defendant "cured" under the statute within 15 days of being notified of the "error" as to her. However, the error was not cured as to the other class members. 

 

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

© Copyright 2021 by Neubauer & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. www.juryverdictalert.com