Suggesting public confidence in the court system has been eroded, District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Thursday ordered a class-action lawsuit to move forward against a payday loan company and a process server who was convicted last week of filing false affidavits.
“Don’t you think that the public and all the rest of us have an interest in seeing that this is appropriately resolved?” Gonzalez asked a lawyer for the payday loan company, Kansas-based Rapid Cash, before issuing her order.
Gonzalez ruled the class of plaintiffs in the lawsuit will consist of people who step forward to allege Rapid Cash obtained default judgments against them without proper legal notice.
The four lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit — Casandra Harrison, Eugene Varcados, Concepcion Quintino and Mary Dungan — all allege they did not learn of default judgments against them until either their employers or banks garnished the money under court orders. They allege Maurice Carroll and process servers for his unlicensed company, On Scene Mediations, lied in Las Vegas Justice Court affidavits claiming to have served them with copies of court papers.
Carroll, 42, a former Las Vegas police officer, was convicted last week of perjury and filing false affidavits in default cases involving another client, debt collector Richland Holdings. Police still are investigating Carroll and others, including lawyers, linked to his company.
Attorneys for the Legal Aid Center and the law firm of Kemp, Jones & Coulthard, which is assisting in the lawsuit against Rapid Cash, said after the hearing that they couldn’t predict how many plaintiffs would be involved in the class action.
But Barbara Buckley, executive director of the Legal Aid Center, said she thinks there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of plaintiffs.
Justice Court officials have estimated that Rapid Cash obtained 17,000 default judgments between 2004 and 2010 with the help of On Scene Mediations.
“We’re very pleased with the judge’s rulings,” Buckley said. “Obviously, there will be a lot of work done to try to determine how to proceed with the case.”
The biggest challenge will be trying to find the plaintiffs. The judgments involved small loans to people that were not paid pack. Many of the people still might not know judgments were lodged against them, and many others probably have left town.
Mark Dzarnoski, a lawyer for Rapid Cash, told Gonzalez that he is not sure how far back the company keeps records, which could complicate the efforts to find the plaintiffs.
Gonzalez ordered both sides to figure out a way to inform potential plaintiffs about the class action and report back to her on Nov. 2. The judge also issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Rapid Cash from collecting on any of the previous default judgments involving On Scene Mediations.
Afterward, Dzarnoski said he was pleased that Gonzalez had certified a “manageable class that gives Rapid Cash the ability to remain in business.”
During the hearing, Dzarnoski suggested that the lawsuit was part of political agenda by Buckley, the Assembly’s retiring Democratic speaker, to drive Rapid Cash out of business. Buckley has led the charge in Carson City to clamp down on the practices of Rapid Cash and other payday loan companies, he said.
Buckley later said the attack on her was a legal diversion.
“It sounds like a desperate ploy to divert attention way from the fraud perpetrated against the court and unsuspecting Nevadans,” she said. “It’s not true.”
The lawsuit, which was filed last month, accuses Rapid Cash of failing to stop On Scene Mediations from carrying out the false affidavit scheme.
The lawsuit alleges Rapid Cash either knew or should have known that On Scene Mediations was not licensed as a process server in the state and should have had greater oversight of its activities.
Carroll, who is free on bail, faces sentencing in February on 35 felony charges. His former office manager, Vilisia Coleman, who also is a defendant in the lawsuit, is to stand trial on similar charges in December.
Contact Jeff German at jgerman@review
journal.com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.