A ruling in a class-action lawsuit in Ohio casts serious doubts about affidavits being used all over the country to support debt buyer collection lawsuits. According to an excellent story by Larry P. Vellequette in the Toledo (OH) Blade, U.S. District Court Judge David Katz ruled that the commonly used affidavit submitted by one of the nation’s biggest debt collectors was not legal. Judge Katz issued an injunction against the company, creating doubt about collection lawsuits across the nation that used the same affidavits in support of debt collection suits. In his ruling, Judge Katz found that clerks at Midland Credit had, as a practice, signed affidavits stating that the individual clerk had “personal knowledge” of the debt being collected when they did not possess such knowledge. The person that signed the affidavit, upon which the company’s collection lawsuits are based, was “an entirely random act” based solely on when the affidavit came off the company’s printer. Because the affidavits were false, the judge ruled that the company’s collection process was not legal. The story quotes a strong passage from Judge Katz’s decision: “[i]t is unclear to this court why such a patently false affidavit would be the standard form used at a business that specialized in the legal ramifications of debt collection.”
Based on what I’ve seen and suspected in my time as a collection attorney, the practices discussed in Judge Katz’s ruling are pretty common across the whole debt collection industry. Hundreds, if not thousands, of these boilerplate affidavits are generated each day, and I have strong doubts about whether the people signing them have “personal knowledge” about all, or any, of the accounts. Yet courts across the country continue to accept the testimony in these questionable affidavits as gospel. Perhaps Judge Katz’s ruling is the start of a new trend of courts reviewing these boilerplate affidavits with more skepticism.
Debt collection under cloud: Sandusky woman’s case raises questions nationwide | Toledo Blade