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Changes to County and Circuit Court Jurisdiction in Florida

Changes to County and Circuit Court Jurisdiction in Florida

On May 24, 2019, the Governor signed House Bill 337 which was previously passed by the Florida legislature. This law makes major changes to the jurisdictional limits of the Florida Courts. Currently, county courts in Florida have jurisdiction of all claims up to $15,000.00 and circuit court has jurisdiction for claims in excess of $15,000.00.

Under this new law, the jurisdiction of county court is increased to $30,000.00 effective January 1, 2020. As a result, after January 1, 2020, the jurisdiction for the circuit courts will be for any claims in excess of $30,000.00. Then on January 1, 2023, the jurisdiction of the county court is increased to include claims up to $50,000.00, which will give the circuit courts jurisdiction in any claim in excess of $50,000.00.

This law does not impact the jurisdictional limits of small claims court. Small claims court is a division of county court and currently small claims court and small claims procedures apply to claims up to $5,000.00.

Should you have questions about this law, please do not hesitate to contact a lawyer at Sorenson Van Leuven for further guidance.

CFPB Publishes Proposed Debt Collection Rule

CFPB Publishes Proposed Debt Collection Rule

Today, the CFPB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The proposal is aimed at providing consumers with protections against harassment by debt collectors. The proposed rule is aimed at four goals: (1) establishing a clear, bright-line rule limiting call attempts and
telephone conversations; (2) clarify consumer protection requirements for certain consumers facing debt collection disclosures; (3) clarify how debt collectors can communicate with consumers; and (4) prohibit suits and threats
of suit on time-barred debts and require communication before credit reporting.

After an initial review of the NPRM, it appears
that the rule is mostly limited to third-party debt collectors and would have limited impact on Credit Unions servicing and collecting their own debts. However, the rule does establish standards of harassment that might be used to establish harassment under state statutes that apply to creditors collecting their own debts. The rule also addresses the use of email and text messaging, providing the first federal guidance on the use of these tools in collecting a debt.

The public is invited to submit written comments on the proposed rule. The public will have ninety days from the date that the NPRM is published in the Federal Register to provide public comments on the proposed rule. A copy of the proposed rule can be found here.

We are still in the process of evaluating this proposed rule and will be providing additional information to our clients. In addition, this will be a topic covered at our Credit Union Seminar, August 7-9th in Orlando. Additional information on the seminar can be found on our website under the News tab.

Changes to FATCA and Impact on Lenders

Changes to FATCA and Impact on Lenders

There is a change to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) that will have a limited impact on financial institutions. FATCA was enacted into law to combat tax evasion through foreign accounts and investments. Since the law’s enactment, the IRS has been enacting regulations to enforce this law.

A new regulation goes into effect on January 1, 2019. This new regulation impacts insurance companies and requires that insurance companies distinguish between U.S. and foreign financial institutions. If a financial institution has not been identified as a U.S. financial institution, the insurance company will apply a thirty (30%) withholding to certain payouts and the amount withheld will be paid to the IRS. As such, insurance companies will be requesting a W-9 from financial institutions listed as a loss payee on an insurance policy.

Some of our clients have already received demands for a completed Form W-9 from auto insurance companies. We expect that additional insurance companies will make similar demands. As such, when requested, the Credit Union should submit a W-9 to the insurance company to avoid a thirty percent (30%) withholding on any loss payee payment.

Should you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact a lawyer at SVL for further guidance and information.

TCPA: Ninth Circuit Court Expands the Definition of an Autodialer

TCPA: Ninth Circuit Court Expands the Definition of an Autodialer

On September 20, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a written opinion in the case of Jordan Marks v. Crunch San Diego, LLC, Case #14-56834. A copy of the opinion can be found here. The primary issue before the court was the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).

This opinion is the first written opinion by a Federal Circuit Court since the D.C. Circuit struck down the FCC’s definition of an ATDS earlier this year in its opinion, ACA Int’l v. Fed. Communication Commission 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Circ. 2018). After the D.C. Circuit struck down the FCC’s broad definition of an ATDS, defense lawyers and business leaders hoped that the FCC and other courts would adopt a more restrictive definition.

Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit defined an ATDS as “equipment which has the capacity (1) to store numbers to be called or (2) to produce numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator – and to dial such numbers automatically(even if the system must be turned on or triggered by a person).” Under the court’s expanded definition, if a phone system can store numbers and then dial such numbers automatically, even if triggered by a person, the system is an ATDS and subject to the TCPA.

While the 9th Circuit has jurisdiction in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, and its decision is not binding on courts in other parts of the country, this decision will most likely be used by Plaintiff’s counsel to continue to pursue claims under the TCPA. If more courts adopt this expanded definition of an ATDS, most modern business telephone systems will be considered an ATDS. While the definition of an ATDS continues to be a heavily litigated issue, Credit Unions can avoid the concern by making sure that calls placed to consumers are made in compliance with the TCPA. Compliance with the TCPA is best accomplished by having valid written consent from the consumer and maintaining a sound procedure and process to track when a consumer revokes consent.

Please note that this communication is meant to inform and educate our clients and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice as to a specific situation. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of our attorneys at Sorenson Van Leuven, PLLC.

Timeliness of Claims for Surplus Funds in a Foreclosure

Timeliness of Claims for Surplus Funds in a Foreclosure

We want to make you aware of a recent court ruling from the Florida Supreme Court in Bank of New York Mellon v. Glenville, 43 Fla. L. Weekly S333 (Fla. 2018) that provides clarification on the deadline to file a claim for surplus funds following a foreclosure sale.

With the steady rise in home prices throughout Florida, more and more foreclosed properties are selling at foreclosure sales for amounts that exceed what the foreclosing lending is owed on its final judgment. These monies that exceed what the foreclosing lender is owed in their final judgment are called “surplus funds”. When you have surplus funds, all junior lienholders who were included as defendants in the foreclosure lawsuit may file a claim for the surplus funds. The Court will then hold a hearing to determine how the surplus funds should be awarded. The general rule in Florida is that the funds are to be paid to the junior lien holders who filed a claim based on their lien priority, with any remainder being awarded to the record owner of the property at the time that the lis pendens is recorded. Section 45.032 (2), Florida Statutes. Any junior lienholder who wants to make a claim has 60-days to file their claim. Where the lower Courts disagree is on the question of when that 60-days begins to run. Some Courts held that a junior lienholder had 60-days from the date of the foreclosure sale to file their claim. While other Courts held that the deadline did not begin to run until the Clerk issued the Certificate of Title. The Supreme Court in its holding in Glenville resolved any disputes among the lower Courts by holding that the 60-days begins to run once the Clerk issues the Certificate of Disbursements.

If your financial institution holds a junior mortgage or judgment and has been named as a defendant in a foreclosure, it may be entitled to surplus funds, should they exist. It is our practice, that upon request, we file an answer on behalf of the financial institution and then monitor the case for a final judgment and foreclosure sale date. Upon completion of the foreclosure sale, we will monitor for possible surplus funds, and should any exist, we will file a claim for those funds before the newly allotted deadline.

Please note that this email is meant to inform and educate our clients. This should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice as to a specific situation. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of the attorneys at Sorenson Van Leuven, PLLC.

Court Holds that Direct Dropped Voicemails are Covered by the TCPA

Court Holds that Direct Dropped Voicemails are Covered by the TCPA

Earlier this week, a Federal Judge in Michigan, ruled that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) covers so-called “direct drop” voicemail. The case is Karen Sanders v. Duck O’Neal, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-335, 2018 WL 3453967 (W.D. Mich. July 16, 2018). This opinion is the first known opinion to address this technology.

The case involved VoApp’s DirectDrop voicemail product. This product allows a pre-recorded message to be directly “dropped” or delivered to a consumer’s voicemail without the consumer’s telephone ringing or showing a missed call. VoApp and similar vendors have argued that this technology is not governed by the TCPA. The Judge ruled that the TCPA does apply, finding that “[c]ourts have consistently held that voicemail messages are subject to the same TCPA restrictions as traditional calls.”

The Judge wrote as follows:

“As a remedial statute, the Court construes the TCPA broadly in favor of Saunders. The statute itself casts a broad net—it regulates any call, and a “call” includes communication, or an attempt to communicate, via telephone. Both the FCC and the courts have recognized that the scope of the TCPA naturally evolves in parallel with telecommunications technology as it evolves, e.g., with the advent of text messages and email-to-text messages or, as we have here, new technology to get into a consumer’s voicemail box directly. The TCPA was enacted in 1991; the equivalent act at that time could be considered a party recording a message directly on an answering machine’s cassette tape without ever calling the number—an infeasible technological feat absent physical access to a consumer’s answering machine.”

Note that this ruling does not hold that this technology is unlawful under the TCPA, only that the use of this technology must comply with the TCPA. Further, this order is just one ruling on this matter, and there is likely to be a contrary ruling in the future. Nevertheless, if your Credit Union uses a direct drop service to collect on consumer accounts, the Credit Union should determine if such service is being used in compliance with the TCPA.