HOUSTON, APRIL, 2, 2005 – Ruling that debt collectors can’t arbitrarily choose where they file lawsuits to collect upon a consumer debt, a federal magistrate judge has entered a partial summary judgment in favor of Carla Hester in her suit against Graham, Bright & Smith and R. Spencer. Hester was represented by Houston Consumer Law Attorney Richard Tomlinson.

The case involved an earlier lawsuit filed against Hester that sought payment of a consumer debt. She had entered into a retail installment contract with Aqua Finance to fund the installation of siding on her home. When Hester did not pay the debt, Graham, Bright & Smith and R. Spencer filed suit against her in Dallas County, Texas, despite the fact that Hester resides in Smith County, Texas.

Federal Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie ruled that defendants Graham, Bright & Smith and R. Spencer Shytles violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by filing suit against Hester in an inappropriate venue. The suit was not filed in the county where the contract was signed or where Hester resided, as required by the Act. Judge Guthrie also ruled that Aqua Finance violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act on the same grounds. A trial on damages and other relief is currently scheduled for May 23, 2005.

“We are pleased with the judge’s ruling, but unfortunately we do not believe this is an isolated case,” said Tomlinson, who is Board Certified in Commercial and Consumer Law. “Without an expert in consumer law fighting for them, Texas consumers can be easily intimidated when subjected to this type of insidious distant-forum abuse debt collection practices.”

The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act includes an array of consumer protections, such as barring debt collector from harassing the consumer, used profane language, calling repeatedly, calling after 9:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m., threatened to sue, calling at work against the consumer’s wishes, misrepresenting the amount owed or the status of the debt, and falsely stating that the consumer has committed a crime or similar wrongdoing. Under the Act, a debt collector must cease all communications after the consumer informs them in writing that they refuse to pay or want the debt collector to stop calling.


About the Law Office of Richard Tomlinson

Based in Houston, the Law Office of Richard Tomlinson is a consumer law firm focused entirely on consumer law and dedicated to providing legal counsel to consumers in order to give them a fighting chance. The firm represents clients in such cases as Texas Lemon laws and other consumer problems with new or used car deals, breach of warranty and other residential construction disputes, Fair debt collection law and predatory lending, and Deceptive trade practices. For more information go to www.houstonconsumerlaw.com or call 713-627-2100 ext. 219.