A Dorchester County judge has granted a request to certify a class action lawsuit against a Columbia law firm that’s accused of misrepresenting the debt that property owners owe their homeowners’ associations in violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
The property owners allege that the law firm of McCabe, Trotter & Beverly, which collects debts on behalf of homeowners’ associations throughout South Carolina, improperly inflated the amounts that they supposedly owed on their accounts by tacking its own legal fees onto their outstanding balances, and that this constitutes a violation of the FCDPA. They claim that the firm has been engaging in this practice since at least 2012.
Judge Diane Schaffer Goodstein ruled in a Jan. 11 order that the homeowners had met all of the requirements for class certification under South Carolina law, which relate to the size of the proposed class, the commonality of the claims of each member, and the amount of money at issue. Class certification is a procedural question unrelated to the merits of the claim.
Damages under the FDCPA can be substantial. In addition to collecting actual damages and attorneys’ fees, plaintiffs can recover up to $1,000 in statutory damages for each separate violation of the act. Justin Kahn of Kahn Law Firm in Charleston and Mary Leigh Arnold of Mount Pleasant represent the homeowners.
“We are pleased with the decision and look forward to litigating the case,” Kahn told Lawyers Weekly in a written statement.
Andrew Countryman of Mount Pleasant represents McCabe, Trotter & Beverly. Countryman, after being relayed Kahn’s comments, said he was “disappointed with the decision and look(s) forward to litigating the case.”
Follow David Donovan on Twitter @SCLWDonovan