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Have repossession companies been sued before for violating people’s rights?

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2021 | Repossession |

Yes. There have been many lawsuits filed against repossession companies for violating people’s rights during repossessions. If a repossession company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), then pursuant to that federal statute, it would have to pay a consumer compensation of up to $1,000 in statutory damages, any actual damages, and cover the consumer’s legal fees and any court costs.

In the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, a class action lawsuit was filed against a creditor, a repossession company, and multiple repossession agents. The repossession company and agents were sued for alleged violations of the FDCPA and all defendants were sued for alleged violations of Minnesota state law.

The plaintiff in this case alleged that she took out a loan with the creditor in order to purchase a vehicle. She alleged that the creditor had a security interest in the vehicle and that she was required to make monthly payments for the loan. She also alleged that over the course of the loan, she made several late and partial payments that her creditor had accepted. In the state of Minnesota, if a creditor has accepted late and partial payments from a debtor, the creditor must provide a debtor with a Cobb notice in order to conduct a lawful repossession. The notice informs debtors that they must strictly abide by the terms of the loan contract. The plaintiff alleged that her creditor never sent her a Cobb notice after accepting her late payments. She also alleged that in March 2015, she made another overdue payment which was again accepted by her creditor. She alleged that after making this payment, she began to fall behind on her monthly payments again.

The plaintiff alleged that her creditor hired a repossession company in order to repossess her vehicle. She alleged that in April 2015, a repossession agent entered her private property in order to gain access to her vehicle. The plaintiff alleged that once she saw him in her driveway, she came outside to ask him why he was there. The plaintiff alleged that the agent informed her that he was planning to repossess her vehicle and that she could not stop him because she had overdue payments. She then alleged that she asked the agent how much she could pay in order to keep her vehicle, to which the defendant replied that the repossession would occur regardless of how much she could pay. Afterward, the plaintiff alleged that she called her creditor in order to gain information about the situation. She alleged that while this call occurred, the repossession agent began to load her vehicle onto his tow truck and that shortly afterward, the repossession agent drove away with her vehicle.

The plaintiff alleged that a few days later, she spoke with an employee of her creditor who informed her that she would be able to continue making her monthly payments if she paid off the overdue balance that remained on her account. She also alleged that she asked the employee why they never sent her a Cobb notice or another warning letter to which the employee replied that the creditor was not legally required to provide any letters before the occurrence of a repossession. The plaintiff alleged that later in the day, she spoke with another representative of the creditor. She alleged that she also asked this second representative whether or not a Cobb notice was sent to her. The plaintiff alleged that the representative told her that neither a Cobb letter nor a “right to cure” letter was ever sent to her.

The plaintiff alleged that the repossession company and its agents committed an unlawful repossession of her vehicle because they did not have a present right to repossess her property. She alleged that because her creditor never provided her with a Cobb notice after accepting late payments, the repossession company did not have the legal right to conduct a repossession.

In the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, another federal lawsuit was filed against a creditor and a repossession company. The repossession company was sued for alleged violations of the FDCPA and both defendants were sued for alleged violations of Minnesota state law. The docket number for this case is Case No. 0:17-cv-00934-JRT-HB.

The plaintiff alleged that prior to her purchase of the vehicle, a third-party consumer entered into an agreement with a creditor for the vehicle’s purchase. She alleged that this vehicle was then purchased by another dealer who was given a clear title to the vehicle. The plaintiff alleged that she purchased her vehicle from this dealer and entered into a loan agreement in order to finance the purchase. The plaintiff alleged that at the time of the repossession, all of her monthly payments had been paid on time, and she was up to date on the account.

The plaintiff alleged that in February 2017, the creditor issued a repossession order for her vehicle and that it contracted a repossession company in order to conduct the repossession. She alleged that on the day of the repossession, she parked her vehicle on the third floor of her workplace’s parking ramp. The plaintiff alleged that the repossession company unlawfully repossessed her vehicle from where it was parked. She alleged that after she finished work, she walked to the parking area to find her vehicle missing. The plaintiff alleged that she called the police who informed her that her vehicle had been repossessed.

The plaintiff alleged that she contacted the dealer after speaking with the police, and that the dealer told her that they did not issue a repossession order and that all of her payments were made on time. She alleged that she then called the repossession company to determine what the reasoning was behind the repossession but that the company told her that she needed to contact her lender.

She then alleged that the repossession company told her that the original creditor of the vehicle was the lienholder and that they had issued the repossession order. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that she and her current lender called the repossession company who told them that they needed to resolve the situation with the original lender. The plaintiff alleged that the next day, her current lender spoke with the original lender and finally determined that the repossession was wrongfully committed. The plaintiff alleged that her vehicle was returned the same day. She also alleged that she contacted the original creditor in order to seek reimbursement, but that they never responded to her.

The plaintiff alleged that the repossession company wrongfully repossessed her vehicle because they used unfair or unconscionable means during the repossession. She also alleged that they had no present legal right to repossess her vehicle.

What constitutes a violation of a consumer’s rights during the repossession process?

A creditor has to comply with the laws of the state that a consumer resides in during the repossession process. Any third-party repossession companies that are hired by the lender of a consumer’s auto loan must follow not only the consumer’s state’s respective state-specific repossession laws but also the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a federal law that protects consumers from unlawful debt collectors. Prior to a repossession, and depending on the state, a creditor may have to provide the consumer with a pre-repossession notice before it can legally repossess the vehicle. When conducting a repossession, the repossession company does not have the right to breach the peace. Examples of a breach of the peace include using physical force, being violent, damaging a consumer’s property, and continuing with a repossession after the consumer verbally objects to it; the act is illegal in all U.S. states.

In some states, it is illegal for a repossession company to trespass onto a consumer’s property without the consumer’s permission to conduct a repossession on their property. It is also illegal for a repossession company to repossess the incorrect vehicle. Depending on the state, a creditor may have to send the consumer a repossession notice, such as a pre-sale notice for the disposition of the vehicle, and/or a post-sale notice after the repossession has occurred. If a consumer’s vehicle was unlawfully repossessed, it is possible that the consumer would not have to pay any deficiency balance on their loan. If the repossession company violated the FDCPA, then pursuant to that federal statute, the repossession company would have to pay the consumer compensation of up to $1,000 in statutory damages, any actual damages, and cover their legal fees and any court costs.