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I have edited this post to include this introductory statement because there's a lot here and I feel it's important to read through this saga knowing ahead of time how it will end. You will see how much work and attention to detail I gave this case but it was not enough to come out on top. I lost in Justice Court when the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (MSJ) and was unable to get the appellate court to reverse the lower court's ruling. Here is the thread for my appeal: http://www.creditinfocenter.com/community/topic/323330-arizona-lost-to-cavalry-on-msj-also-lost-on-appeal/ I have learned several things along the way. The most significant one is that in most cases, there is no "absolute" way a Justice Court judge has to rule on evidence. He can rule one way on admitting certain evidence and another judge can rule the exact opposite way. If both cases went to appeal, the appellate court can rule that neither judge committed error. To wit, winning in Arizona is mostly luck of the draw and as time marches on, good luck seems to be evermore diminishing . The reason for this is because appellate courts in AZ (and most other places) review the admission of evidence for an "abuse of discretion". This means they are not looking for a specific outcome with the admission of evidence (admitted or rejected), but instead are looking for something to indicate the judge had a basis for his decision. Furthermore, if there is nothing on the record that shows the judge had no basis for his ruling, the appellate courts usually won't assume facts that aren't there. This means the evidence itself must be lacking some fundamental element in order to have the appellate court reverse the Justice Court decision. The next important thing I learned is that there is a case here in Arizona named Parker that appeals courts have been applying to JDB lawsuits. Parker says that a witness can testify about business records even if that witness did not create the records or has no knowledge of the person that created them or the manner in which they were created. The way this is being applied to JDB lawsuits is an employee of a JDB can testify about your credit card statements even though the JDB's employee has never seen the records before reviewing them in preparation of giving her testimony. The only criteria for giving this testimony is that the testimony must state 1.) the witness is a custodian of the JDBs records; 2.) the witness has reviewed the records being introduced (and specifically identifies them); 3.) the records were incorporated into the JDBs own records; and 4.) the JDB relied on the records in its normal course of business. If all 4 of those things are present in the witness testimony (or affidavit on MSJ), the Justice Court is free to admit the evidence and the appellate court won't reverse that decision on objections of hearsay or lack of foundation. This doesn't mean the evidence admission cannot be reversed based on some fundamental defect with the evidence itself, however. Examples of this would be a date that doesn't match up with other dates or dollar amounts among the records are discrepant with no rational explanation. It's YOUR job to raise these questions with the lower court. If you don't address them with the lower court, the appellate court won't consider them on appeal. The last important thing I learned is that JDBs are now entering into 'capped legal fee' agreements with their attorneys. This means that the lawyer agrees to represent the JDB for a modest fee if the defendant does not contest the lawsuit (including defaults) and then a maximum amount the JDB will pay on contested lawsuits. In my own case the cap was set at $1,500. The lawyer submitted an affidavit that they spent over $11,000 in time, but stated that due to 'contractual arrangements' they could only charge $1,500 of that to Cavalry. The significance of this is that a few years ago, if a defendant contested the lawsuit and started running up the JDB's legal tab, the JDB would be more inclined to drop the case and walk away. Now, when they know they will spend no more than $1,500, once they reach that $1,500 limit (right around the 2-3 month mark of the lawsuit when discovery takes place), they have no incentive to back down. It will cost the JDB the same to litigate the case all the way to trial and beyond (I appealed and Cavalry never paid more than $1,500) as it would to settle the case once the cap is reached. The cautionary tale here is that JDBs (at least here in AZ) have figured out exactly what they need to do in order to keep a Justice Court decision in their favor from getting reversed. My philosophy is to do whatever you can to keep the Arizona Court System from deciding your fate on a debt collection lawsuit. At this time, the most effective way to do that is via arbitration. There is an arbitration forum here on CIC. I suggest asking for advice there. Also, here is an example of how arbitration was used in Arizona to beat a JDB: http://www.creditinfocenter.com/community/topic/326349-retired-and-being-sued-by-unifund/ Here is a Justice Court Appeals Ruling discussing the use of arbitration in debt collection cases. http://www.courtminutes.maricopa.gov/docs/Lower Court/082016/m7481002.pdf Update 12-21-2015: The CFPB smacked Midland and Portfolio Financial Services (PFS) pretty hard in a consent order earlier this year. You can read the details here: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-takes-action-against-the-two-largest-debt-buyers-for-using-deceptive-tactics-to-collect-bad-debts/ The reason this is significant is some of the Justice Courts here have reconsidered how they are treating Midland and PFS when consumers contest the lawsuits they bring. This is from a Justice Court case that was reversed on appeal: http://www.courtminutes.maricopa.gov/docs/Lower%20Court/102015/m7064645.pdf There have been a couple reports of the Justice Courts taking it upon themselves to reject the evidence, even when the defendant doesn't raise the issues of the CFPB findings. Of course, if you are sued by Midland or PFS, certainly address the CFPB findings when objecting to summary judgment or at trial when Midland/PFS tries to introduce their evidence. Update 04-06-2016: It seems the Justice Court appellate court has had a change of heart: http://courtminutes.maricopa.gov/docs/Lower%20Court/022016/m7204120.pdf Ok, on to my story.
Great news, I was sued by Erica Brachfeld and finally got the case dismissed once they got a look at my MIL!! Thanks Homeless--your Dec in Sup and the MIL were all I needed to send them running Only lasting question is that the case was dismissed WITHOUT prejudice. Is there anything I can do to make it dismissed WITH prejudice? Best of luck to all of you still fighting. Use Target v Rocha and you'll have more than a fighting chance. Cheers!!