Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
Columbiana County attorney Geoffrey S. Goll, and a debt collection company DDY, Inc., agreed to a Federal Court Order prohibiting them from engaging in certain conduct, and requiring them to pay attorney fees of consumers.
By Daniel Myers
Youngstown, Ohio, December 12, 2015
Salem-area attorney Geoff Goll, as well as debt collection company DDY, Inc., have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed against them by two Ohio consumers alleging that Goll and DDY engaged in illegal and coercive debt collection practices. The settlement was filed by Federal District Court Judge Benita Pearson, and includes a list of activities that Goll and DDY are prohibited from engaging in, as well as certain steps they must take in future collection attempts. A copy of the settlement agreement / stipulation / court order is available here: Goll-DDY Stipulation Court Order.
This settlement protects and may be enforced by all Ohio consumers whom Goll and DDY attempt to collect consumer debts against, including their attempts to collect money owed to Salem Community Hospital.
The lawsuit (Case Number 4:15-cv-00476 in the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division) was filed by Terese and Thomas Mohn, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated Ohioans. The Mohns were represented by Ohio consumer protection attorneys Edward Icove and Dan Myers, both from Cleveland, Ohio. The lawsuit alleged that Attorney Goll and DDY threatened consumers with prison if they did not make payment arrangements for hospital bills incurred at Salem Community Hospital.
Attorney Goll and DDY defended the suit on the basis that the Mohns misunderstood that any arrest warrant would be issued by the court and not Attorney Goll or DDY. “We are proud of the work we have done for our clients for the last 30 years,” said Attorney Goll. “Everyday, we strive to treat our clients’ customers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The complaint also alleged that Goll and DDY engaged in other wrongful conduct, including allowing judgment liens to remain active despite judgments being settled, and making threats to collect interest greater than the rate permitted by law on unpaid hospital bills.
The court never decided the merits of the case, because an agreement was reached, and Attorney Goll and DDY state that they decided to settle to avoid protracted litigation.
Attorney Goll and DDY agreed that they would no longer use a demand letter that they had sent to the Mohns, which included a threat of collecting 18% interest. Goll and DDY also agreed that they would not threaten consumers with prison time in order to collect unpaid consumer debts, such as those owed to Salem Community Hospital. Goll and DDY maintain that they never threatened consumers with prison time in order to collect debts. They can still institute contempt proceedings when a debtor fails to appear at court.
Goll and DDY also agreed that they would, for three years, promptly release any judgment lien they have filed when a judgment has been satisfied, and inform the court where the judgment was issued of that satisfaction, a practice they maintain that they have already followed for active judgments. However, the Mohns alleged in their Complaint that Goll and DDY left judgment liens against them on satisfied judgments. Judgment liens can harm a person’s credit and also prevent them from obtaining financing.
Attorney Goll and DDY also agreed to pay the court costs, a “confidential amount of money” to compensate the Mohns, and reasonable attorneys’ fees, which will be determined by the court.
Attorney Goll and DDY state that they entered into the settlement solely to avoid the expense of protracted litigation and maintain that the complaint stemmed from a misunderstanding that the courts do have the power to issue arrest warrants when debtors miss a judgment debtor exam. Any future violation of the agreement can be brought in front of Judge Benita Pearson by any Ohio consumer who is the victim of any such violation of the settlement agreement.
The agreement covers many other issues, as well. A complete copy of this agreement is included as an attachment to this announcement, and can also be obtained from contacting the Mohns’ Attorney Daniel J. Myers at 216-236-8202 or via email at DMyers@MyersLawLLC.com.
“If you give birth to a child, or need medical treatment at Salem Community Hospital, no one can threaten you with arrest or imprisonment simply because you could not pay the bill,” said Dan Myers, attorney for the Mohns. “This agreement goes a long way to making sure that does not happen, and we believe it will help protect many Ohioans in the future,” said Myers.
While Ohioans normally cannot be arrested simply because they owe an unpaid hospital bill, they can be arrested if they fail to follow a court order. According to Myers, “we do not have debtors’ prisons in this country anymore. However, if a judge orders you to show up to court, and you fail to show up, you run the risk of being held in contempt of court and arrested. You can be arrested for disobeying a court order, which is different from being arrested for not paying a debt you may or may not owe.”
For more information about this case, the settlement agreement, and the protections it affords to other Ohioans and other consumers, feel free to contact attorney Daniel J. Myers of Myers Law LLC at 216-236-8202, or via email at DMyers@MyersLawLLC.com