Fighting back and winning

Thursday, December 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Sometimes it does pay to fight back. One Tulsa man learned that after suing an Oklahoma company for refusing to refund his money. And his efforts could pay off for you.

He received one of the largest judgments ever in a case involving the state's consumer protection act. Six in Your Corner reporter Diane White has the details. It’s a case about money - and a man who needed some extra cash. "My Dad had passed and he lived in Oakland California so I had to go to California for his funeral." He needed money - fast, so Evans went to Cashland for a $300 loan - payoff was $382.50, 126% interest. He defaulted on his payments so Cashland sued Evans and won, and garnished his wages for 287 dollars. Evans asked us to protect his privacy. "My employer paid the first garnishment from my wages then they subsequently garnished me again - and when I got the garnishment - I thought well I've already paid this."

So Evans went back to court and won. The court ordered Cashland to refund him $110. "They just simply refused to send it to me." So he hired a small consumer law firm in Tulsa and sued Cashland for wrongful garnishment. Attorney Luke Wallace: "They added on amounts they couldn't justify - there was no way they could justify." And the lawyers found a pattern - after reviewing hundreds of documents - audits of Cashland's accounts they received from the State Office of Consumer Credit. "We were able to establish that it wasn't just a mistake - this was a pattern and practice of doing business."

A pattern of overcharging thousands of loans. One audit covered 537 accounts. “Each account had an error - they were overcharging on delinquency charges." A pattern they presented at trial. The jury got their message, ordering Cashland to pay Terry Evans $310,000 in damages. "I was overjoyed because of the fact that the jury did hear what was going on - they did understand what was going." Collecting the money could be tricky. Shortly after October's verdict, the owner of Cashland filed bankruptcy.

We caught up with him at a recent asset hearing to ask him about the case, but he wouldn't talk to us and his lawyer refused to comment. But Evans says it's about more than money. "I felt it wasn't just a victory for me it was a victory for people who might be going through the same thing” Luke Wallace, "The message to the industry and to these particular businesses - is you better shape up, get your books in order, do your business right and play by the rules."

And there's a lesson for consumers - check out any company before applying for quick cash. If you have a question about a lender, you can call the State Office of Consumer Credit. That number is 581-2771.