- Robert Weed
Why FCRA and FDCPA Cases in the General District Court
I hate it when companies do illegal stuff to my customers.
I’m a personal bankruptcy lawyer. I love being a bankruptcy lawyer, because I can help almost everyone I see. I love being able to help people get back on their feet. And I hate it, when companies do illegal stuff to my customers. (And people in financial trouble are magnets for illegal stuff to be done to them.)
So, besides bankruptcy, I also do “consumer law.” Mainly Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). (Also Virginia Consumer Protection Act.)
FCRA and FDCPA are Federal laws. And lawyers who mainly do that kind of law, mainly sue in the Federal Courthouse.
I mostly bring FCRA and FDCPA cases in the Fairfax County courthouse.
I mostly sue in a state courthouse–usually the Fairfax General District Court. Why? It’s cheaper and faster. And the consumer–you–have to do less.
When I sue on an FCRA or FDCPA violation in state court, I want three things. I want your problem fixed. I want to get you $1000 for your trouble. I want to get $1000, plus the filing fees, for doing the work.
If the company has a good excuse, I’m willing to compromise on those amounts to get the problem fixed. If the company wants to BS us, I don’t compromise. I nonsuit.
If the company wants to BS us, I don’t compromise. I nonsuit.
A nonsuit is the right of the plaintiff in Virginia–that’s you in an FCRA or FDCPA case–to drop the case and then come back again. Why would we do that? So we can come back again in the Federal Court.
In the Federal Courthouse, you will probably still only get $1000. But I can get a lot more. If they want to play lawyer games, then they get the bill.
In the Federal Court, you still probably only get $1000. But I’d get a LOT more. I’d get more because the legal procedures are more complicated. More complicated procedures take more lawyer time. And when we win, obviously we do this when we expect to to win, they have to pay more for lawyer time.
If they want to fix the problem, and pay for their mistake, I’m easy to settle with. If they want to play lawyer games, they get a bigger bill. The Federal Court will award a lot bigger attorneys fees than Fairfax General District usually does.
Here’s what to expect if I bring an FCRA or FDCPA Case for You in Fairfax General District Court.
You send us the documents. That might be the wrong entry on your credit report, and your disputes. Your notes on a harassing phone call. An unfair collection letter. We start with documents. (A lot less documents than we needed to do a bankruptcy case, however.)
We carefully evaluate the documents. Then we send you an FDCPA Fee Agreement, ask you to sign it and return it to our office. (Note that the fee agreements says we only get paid if we win. They have to pay us; you don’t.)
We draft and file the lawsuit.
We file the case, and set a return date. That’s the date they have to show up in court, and ask for a trial. If they don’t show up, they just lose. The first return date is 5 – 7 weeks after we file the case. Usually on a Tuesday. (Because Tuesday’s least likely to have a conflict in the bankruptcy court.)
We hope sometime around the first return date, we’ll hear from their lawyer. Their lawyer usually says, “Hey I just got this, I need more time.” Sometimes their lawyer offers a really good excuse. Usually, we get a lame excuse and a low-ball offer.
You have the right to accept or reject any offers. But unless they have a good excuse, we recommend just a very small reduction and then, “take it or leave it.”
Usually they take it.
If there’s a settlement, there’s still more to be done. Usually the paper work isn’t finished by the first return date. So we set a trial date eight to twelve weeks down the road–to keep the settlement on track. They will draft a settlement, and we will argue about that a little. (Some companies want you to agree to non-disparagement. I explain to them that what they call non-disparagement, I call obstruction of justice. And, No, we won’t agree to obstruction of justice. I explain why, here.)
Usually it’s about a month after you sign the settlement agreement, before they check is actually in the mail.
When we agree on the settlement language, then you sign the agreement, then they sign it, then you get your money. It usually takes about a month after you sign for the money to get to you.
What’s Next–If They Don’t Settle
If they don’t settle, then we do trial preparation. Trial preparation is your lawyer going over everything to make sure nothing is missed. You might get some requests for more information, or very specific questions. If we are preparing for trial, make sure you are checking your email and getting right back to us.
If it looks like they are settling, but it’s not sure, we need to do trial preparation while we are also doing settlement negotiation. (If they are clearly BSing us, like I said before, we’ll check with you about nonsuiting in the state court, and going to Federal Court, where the attorneys fees–the bill I send them when we win–are usually a lot bigger.)
Then, we’ll have a meeting to go over what you should expect at trial. What questions we’ll ask you; and what questions their lawyer will probably ask you. We’ll want you to be ready, but not over prepared. Ready to talk, but not scripted.
What Else You Need to Know
The Virginia court system is pretty fast, compared to a lot of places. But these things do take time. It often takes longer than you or I want to get your case going, once we have your documents. Once a case is filed, then there are deadlines. I can only keep track of so many deadlines at once.
Expect to communicate by email–emails provide a written record; they are a good way for documents to not be lost; they avoid the problem of phone tag. When we really need to talk, we should talk in person. (And feel free to make an appointment at any time.)
The stress is on them, not you. For most of the companies we sue, a couple thousand dollars isn’t anything. But we are trying to make them hurt, even if it’s only a mosquito bite, because they are doing something they are not allowed to do. They’re the bad guys, we want them to sweat.