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RelayerPA

Lost the battle, but won the war.

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A JDB had me in court on two cases with a combined total of just under five figures.

I filed an MTC arbitration for both cases. Turns out the judge is a pretty straight shooter when it comes to quoting arbitration clauses, preferring to only reference versions of the agreement in effect at the time of the account being opened. Both of my MTCs failed on that, even though I argued that it's not uncommon for CC issuers to update agreements, the customer being bound to any newly issued agreement unless they close the account in writing otherwise. (As far as I believed, both parties were bound to the agreement dated later, as long as the account was still open at that time.)

That being said... it still wasn't a clear case for the Plaintiff. The judge would only honor exact charges that can be proven, and stated that fines, fees, etc. will be considered irrelevant. The Plaintiff would only be allowed to prove actual charges, which turned out to be about 8% of the requested amount.

Long story short... There was a judgment rendered against me for only that 8%, plus court costs. Considering the alternative, that's a pretty big win in the "war." Then unless the Plaintiff appeals the judgment, I can pay them and move on from this.

What did I learn from this?

  • Find the PROPERLY DATED cardholder agreement. Or get a notarized affidavit to the effect that I believe the parties are bound to the version I admit in the case. That way, the Plaintiff would have to prove otherwise.
  • Make the JDB send me their "proof" before it goes to court. Then I'll know what leveraging power I'll have at my local municipal court should a claim be made against me, based on how this particular judge renders justice in these cases.
  • Remember the term, "ascension." The judge informed me of the meaning of that legal term because since I filed the MTC as my response, ascension now makes it known to the court that I agree that the account was mine, or I wouldn't have argued for arbitration. In other words, I could not argue that "it wasn't me."
  • Just be honest, AND DON'T PANIC, even if you think you're going to lose a case. Karma might benefit you right in the middle of the case hearing. :)


I hope this info helps other. Feel free to tell me if there is anything else I SHOULD have learned from this experience, but failed to realize.

All in all, it sucks to technically lose and have to pay something. But that something is 90% less than originally expected.

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Oh... THIS is a great resource. Snapshots of credit card agreements, sorted by Quarter and Year, and zipped together as folders by bank name, having all retail agreements as PDF files.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/credit-cards/agreements/

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What did the 92% consist of - blatantly false charges, or did judge really screw up? Sounds like he was already clueless on arbitration.

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If this was small claims court, realize that quite a few of these judges run those courts as their personal fifedom. This judge might feel that the JDBs can sue for only actual charged, not any add ons. If the JDB does not like it, they can appeal.

However, if this was small claims, most appeals are trial de novos and as such, the OP would have a 2nd bite at the arbitration apple with a real court judge who understands the FAA better. This leaves the JDB with the option of either appealing knowing that the OP will demand arbitration and probably get it in regular court, or take the 8% and walk way. If the JDB paid 5% or less for the debt, they may just take the $750 and call it a win vs a possible gamble at nothing and huge attorney and arbitration costs.

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33 minutes ago, Goody_Ouchless said:

What did the 92% consist of - blatantly false charges, or did judge really screw up? Sounds like he was already clueless on arbitration.

The 92% was the difference between the total card balance reported to the JDB, and claimed by the JDB on the lawsuit, and the actual cost of all items charged on the cards that they had physical proof of. The judge required the plaintiff to prove how the entire balance was calculated. 

The philosophical question now would be, if I had been granted arbitration, would the arbiters have limited the judgement amount to the handful of charges they had on hand. The original amounts were probably high enough to compel the JDB to go to arbitration. 

The way I see it... I lucked out. I get to settle two collections for an amount far less than the JDB would have offered to settle it out of court. 

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2 hours ago, RelayerPA said:

The 92% was the difference between the total card balance reported to the JDB, and claimed by the JDB on the lawsuit, and the actual cost of all items charged on the cards that they had physical proof of. The judge required the plaintiff to prove how the entire balance was calculated. 

Pretty good judge.  First time I have heard of such a scenario.  He's probably sick and tired of them filing law suits without proof.  

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10 hours ago, texasrocker said:

Pretty good judge.  First time I have heard of such a scenario.  He's probably sick and tired of them filing law suits without proof.  

The problem is, judges are required to apply law, not their own opinion. This would be overturned outside of small claims court BUT so would the dismissal of the MTC would probably be overturned too. In this case, will the parties appeal. On one side, you have the defendant who is required to pay only $750 - $800 for a close to five figure debt. On the other side, you have a plaintiff that could get stuck with a huge arbitration bill. This makes it unlikely that either party will appeal the ruling.

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My question is... can I use this to my advantage? If a JDB only provides me after a DV with proof of statement copies containing a small number of actual charges, would it be beneficial for me to negotiate a settlement for the value of the summed charges, assuming that the judge that would hear a court case on the same evidence would be expected to rule the same way?

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3 hours ago, RelayerPA said:

My question is... can I use this to my advantage? If a JDB only provides me after a DV with proof of statement copies containing a small number of actual charges, would it be beneficial for me to negotiate a settlement for the value of the summed charges, assuming that the judge that would hear a court case on the same evidence would be expected to rule the same way?

Are you sure you would get the same judge in another case? And if the JDB thinks they cannot get a fair shake with a particular judge, they will try to avoid that judge when possible. In this case, they would probably file in regular court rather than small claims if they think that by doing so, they do not have to present their case to that particular judge.

You can try to negotiate a settlement using that tactic but personally, I would wait until they sued. Even then, they might accept the lowered judgement and then immediately appeal to regular court.

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On 5/24/2019 at 3:56 AM, WhoCares1000 said:

The problem is, judges are required to apply law, not their own opinion.

Exactly. Given the number cases filed, this one seems ripe for appeal. Can't have a judge making up his own laws - although they said the same thing in Hungary, Poland and Turkey, until recently...

 

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2 hours ago, Goody_Ouchless said:

Exactly. Given the number cases filed, this one seems ripe for appeal. Can't have a judge making up his own laws - although they said the same thing in Hungary, Poland and Turkey, until recently...

 

This would be ripe for appeal except that the OP also filed a MTC arbitration which was denied by the same judge and that denial would also probably be overturned on appeal too forcing the JDB to go the arbitration route. The JDB might take the 8% and run knowing now that they might end up in arbitration if they appeal.

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17 hours ago, WhoCares1000 said:

Are you sure you would get the same judge in another case? And if the JDB thinks they cannot get a fair shake with a particular judge, they will try to avoid that judge when possible. In this case, they would probably file in regular court rather than small claims if they think that by doing so, they do not have to present their case to that particular judge.

It was a small claims local judge. There is only one such judge in any jurisdiction in my state. They would have to go to Common Pleas court, otherwise.

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1 hour ago, RelayerPA said:

It was a small claims local judge. There is only one such judge in any jurisdiction in my state. They would have to go to Common Pleas court, otherwise.

Another JDB can do that it they so wish, even if the claim is small. Most JDBs use regular court here in MN because then they can use the pocket docket process which is not available in small claims.

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On 5/23/2019 at 12:53 PM, RelayerPA said:

Considering the alternative, that's a pretty big win in the "war."

Oof, I disagree.  The alternative would be to appeal due to the Judge wrongly denying arbitration counter to the Supreme Court and then get a dismissal during the arbitration process.

On 5/23/2019 at 12:53 PM, RelayerPA said:

Find the PROPERLY DATED cardholder agreement.

Which you did.  Why did you not just bring in the other card agreement that the judge said was the correct one?

 

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12 minutes ago, fisthardcheese said:

Oof, I disagree.  The alternative would be to appeal due to the Judge wrongly denying arbitration counter to the Supreme Court and then get a dismissal during the arbitration process.

Which you did.  Why did you not just bring in the other card agreement that the judge said was the correct one?

 

I don't understand how the arbitration scenario on appeal you describe would be expected to pan out. Wouldn't there still be a risk via arbitration that I would end up owing thousands, or is it likely that the fact that the judge denial of my MTC would seal the deal in my favor in any arbitration? I'm genuinely curious about different scenarios.

As for the card agreement. The judge was expecting to see an agreement dated before the date of the oldest copy of any credit card bill the Plaintiff had as evidence. Granted, I know that agreements get updated all the time and a consumer is bound to the latest copy. I argued as such, but as to how this case played out, I don't know if I want to risk an 8% judgment amount for a potential judgment against me in arbitration of 100% of the amount if I fail to win. I didn't know until AFTER the case was closed that I needed an older copy to satisfy this judge's requirement, nor until after the case did I find a resource to print one out.

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17 hours ago, WhoCares1000 said:

This would be ripe for appeal except that the OP also filed a MTC arbitration which was denied by the same judge and that denial would also probably be overturned on appeal too forcing the JDB to go the arbitration route. The JDB might take the 8% and run knowing now that they might end up in arbitration if they appeal.

Given the recent uptick in cases of debt buyers following to arbitration, that might not be a concern. Seems like the eight cents on the dollar thing would be critical to address.

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On 5/29/2019 at 1:51 PM, RelayerPA said:

I don't understand how the arbitration scenario on appeal you describe would be expected to pan out. Wouldn't there still be a risk via arbitration that I would end up owing thousands, or is it likely that the fact that the judge denial of my MTC would seal the deal in my favor in any arbitration? I'm genuinely curious about different scenarios.

It would pan out by having the judgement reversed due to the judge's error of denying your MTC, and either sent back to the judge to grant your MTC or another judge to grant the MTC.  You then go through the normal arbitration procedures where there is a 99% chance you settle for a mutual dismissal.

On 5/29/2019 at 1:51 PM, RelayerPA said:

As for the card agreement. The judge was expecting to see an agreement dated before the date of the oldest copy of any credit card bill the Plaintiff had as evidence. Granted, I know that agreements get updated all the time and a consumer is bound to the latest copy. I argued as such, but as to how this case played out, I don't know if I want to risk an 8% judgment amount for a potential judgment against me in arbitration of 100% of the amount if I fail to win. I didn't know until AFTER the case was closed that I needed an older copy to satisfy this judge's requirement, nor until after the case did I find a resource to print one out.

As soon as the judge says where is the card agreement from earlier, why not ask for time to submit that agreement and then get one?  I just don't understand all of the extra involvement.  Even though the judge is wrong, if he is going to accept an earlier agreement, then fine, give him one and have the MTC granted.  Done deal.

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3 hours ago, fisthardcheese said:

Oof, I disagree.  The alternative would be to appeal due to the Judge wrongly denying arbitration counter to the Supreme Court and then get a dismissal during the arbitration process.

But the judgement is only for 8 cents on the dollar. Many people on this board would pray for even a settlement amount close to that. You might be one of those people willing to go all the way, come hell or high water but most people would accept that as a win and if the JDB is willing to walk away with that (read not appeal), then most people will pay the extremely reduced amount rather than tempt an unknown (which is a JDB following you into arbitration where they could win a 5 figure judgement). Sometime you have to be willing to walk away.

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3 hours ago, Goody_Ouchless said:

Given the recent uptick in cases of debt buyers following to arbitration, that might not be a concern. Seems like the eight cents on the dollar thing would be critical to address.

It would be critical if say, 50% of the people being sued actually answered and fought their cases. This is only one local judge (who will not make an precedent) and considering only about 2% of those being sued actually fight their cases, it may not make business sense to throw more money into the common pleas court only to have to throw even more money into arbitration. The JDB could do it if they wish but the most prudent course would be to take the 8 cents on the dollar and walk away.

That said, until the appeals period is up, we have no clue what the JDB might do. The could appeal or they could accept the judgement. That is out of the OPs hands at this point (unless the OP wants to appeal the denial of the MTC but I think that is just as stupid as a JDB following him into arbitration).

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22 hours ago, WhoCares1000 said:

But the judgement is only for 8 cents on the dollar. Many people on this board would pray for even a settlement amount close to that. You might be one of those people willing to go all the way, come hell or high water but most people would accept that as a win and if the JDB is willing to walk away with that (read not appeal), then most people will pay the extremely reduced amount rather than tempt an unknown (which is a JDB following you into arbitration where they could win a 5 figure judgement). Sometime you have to be willing to walk away.

It is a JUDGEMENT for 8%.  I will absolutely fight through an appeal (which should be an easy win with the mountains of case law in favor of arbitration) and then, sure, if you want to settle for the same 8% afterwards, that is your choice.  But I would not let a judgement stand on my record due to a judge's blatant error in denying my MTC.  No way.

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On 5/29/2019 at 2:38 PM, WhoCares1000 said:

...considering only about 2% of those being sued actually fight their cases, it may not make business sense to throw more money into the common pleas court only to have to throw even more money into arbitration.'we

If that was their calculus, they wouldn't pursue anything other than defaults - it would be the old days of them folding to a "well worded answer," which clearly isn't the case. For whatever reason, they take the "two percent" very seriously. Even having my own lawyer, Midland was willing to go the distance. 

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I perused the cases at this local court and saw a LOT of default judgements for the JDB for thousands and thousands, each. So far, my case appears to be the outlier in all of the ones I checked. Nobody else seems to have defended themselves.

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56 minutes ago, RelayerPA said:

Nobody else seems to have defended themselves.

Yea - hard to tell if anything has changed, although it seems like there are a lot more cases of plaintiffs folding to any opposition. It's almost like they fight harder against arbitration, as they know they will always win in court if they try. If arbitration goes viral, they're in a world of hurt.

 

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1 hour ago, RelayerPA said:

I perused the cases at this local court and saw a LOT of default judgements for the JDB for thousands and thousands, each. So far, my case appears to be the outlier in all of the ones I checked. Nobody else seems to have defended themselves.

Most people don't defend themselves. Here in Minnesota, they changed the summons so that it Red Bold Capital letters, the summons says that you have been sued and that you must answer withing 21 days or you automatically lose and the default rate is still the same as before.

That is why I am not sure if they will try to appeal the judge's ruling. They might be thinking to take the 8 cents on the dollar from you and spend their time dealing with the other 98 - 99 (out of 100) people who did not answer and they got default judgements on.

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Right, and there seems to be a change to more along your line of thinking. We went through a phase, six or seven years ago, where those 2% of cases were vigorously prosecuted. I can't recall the last time we saw someone contest a case and either lose at trial or via MSJ.

 

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