Class actions have a number of hurdles to clear before they can attain certification. Those hurdles frequently include the arbitration agreements which companies have grown increasingly fond of including in their contracts. An arbitration agreement is a provision in a contract which states that any dispute between the parties must be settled in arbitration. This usually works in favor of the company as the arbitrator is usually chosen and paid for by the company, and is therefore frequently biased in favor of the company. It also prohibits class actions, which prevents many individuals with small claims from seeking redress, as the cost of arbitration is likely to exceed their claim.
Defendants in class action lawsuits frequently try to force arbitration. Rapid Cash, a loan company, is currently facing a class action lawsuit which alleges that borrowers were subjected to default judgments by the company. Attorney J. Randall Jones is representing the plaintiffs in the class and argues that Rapid Cash waived its ability to require arbitration, and as a result, the case belongs in the district court. Rapid Cash denies that it ever waived that ability and continues to argue that the case should be heard in arbitration.
If Jones succeeds in keeping the case in the district court and obtaining class certification, the class could include almost 16,000 borrowers who were allegedly subjected to default judgment. The class alleges that Rapid Cash failed to provide the required legal notice before subjecting them to default judgment.
One of the defendants included in the lawsuit is On Scene Mediations, a company that Rapid Cash uses to enter default judgments against borrowers. Dan Polsenberg, an attorney representing Rapid Cash, says that the loan company is also unhappy with the conduct of On Scene Mediations and is willing to work with borrowers who claimed nonservice.
However, Rapid Cash claims that borrowers who were wrongfully subjected to default judgments have another legal remedy, which is to go to Justice Court to ask to have the default judgments set aside.
The company also objects to the size of the class, arguing that the parameters for members to become a part of the class are too broad. In addition to 460 borrowers who allegedly never received a notice, the class also includes 7,000 borrowers who were sent letters but never responded, and 8,000 who were sent letters which were returned as undeliverable.
Barbara Buckley, the executive director of the Legal Aid Center, said in a statement why it is so important for plaintiffs to be able to file claims as a class action. “When there are cases of just widespread fraud, it is virtually impossible to have 16,000 separate actions. And having the ability to have one judge decide for one case what the proper recourse is; in some cases it’s the only way for consumers to get relief.”
Jones said that, if the class does not get certified, only a small fraction of the plaintiffs will be able to get any relief. He pointed out that “These people are the most vulnerable in our society in terms of economic fraud and taking advantage of people in the financial arena. … You’re dealing with a constituency that doesn’t have a whole lot of options. So you need this process or else these people really won’t get any kind of remedy.”