Arthur Miller v. Cohen & Slamowitz: attorney’s failure to conduct meaningful review violates FDCPA

This case has been litigated since 2001.  Originally, notorious collection law firm Wolpoff & Abramson was one of the defendants as they had referred the account to Upton, Cohen & Slamowitz. Wolpoff then merged with Mann Bracken and they went bankrupt when Minnesota put an end to the National Arbitration Forum SCAM. Giant Debt Collector Law Firm Mann, Bracken Out of Business

At some point Upton apparently left and now the only remaining defendant is Cohen & Slamowitz.

On 9/30/09, after EIGHT years of litigation, judge Mauskopf ruled after the bench trial:

MEMORANDUM, DECISION AND ORDER: This Court concludes that Defendant UCS failed to undertake a meaningful review of Plaintiff’s debt-collection matter and is therefore liable for misrepresentations in violation of FDCPA § 1692e.

Cohen & Slamowitz’s defense was that they had relied on the review by the referring law firm Wolpoff & Abramson.

Incredibly, I documented the Cohen and Slamowitz Unfair Collection Litigation Practices AFTER this ruling!

Since my client was working and he did not want his co-workers and boss to know that he has financial problems and was sued, I requested an extension for him to answer the complaint on 11/5/09.

I also requested that Cohen & Slamowitz inform the creditor Citibank that he was defrauded by the FDRS and Mark Cella Debt Elimination SCAM.   While my FDRS fraud documentary put them out of business, I hoped that Citi would pursue FDRS to recover at least some of the loot – allegedly $50 million.

To date, Cohen & Slamowitz has NOT responded to me or to my client.  Its attorney Carol Van Houten submitted some bizarre filings to the court, but has yet to address the fraud issue.

Unfortunately, I can’t write my client’s court filings because I’m NOT an attorney and I don’t know anything about NY court rules. If my client  COULD afford to pay an attorney, he would just pay his bills.

Speaking of attorneys’ fees, the Miller case is currently arguing over about $200,000 for the consumer’s attorney fees.  While it may seem like a LOT of money, it is well deserved.  9 years of litigation, extensive discovery and numerous depositions.

I suspect that Cohen & Slamowitz will either appeal or also file for bankruptcy.

I don’t know how many OTHERS filed lawsuits against Cohen & Slamowitz, but one reason for this post is to let consumers and attorneys know about the Miller ruling and the Cohen & Slamowitz CONTINUING extremely unfair litigation practices against consumers who cannot afford to retain attorneys.

Cohen & Slamowitz needs to be sued out of business.

A few excerpts from the 9/30/09  Memorandum (DCS = Cohen & Slamowitz):

… Slamowitz went on to concede his ignorance of two pivotal, although easily ascertainable facts: that Miller’s credit card agreement was governed by Ohio law, and that Ohio law precluded DCS’s claim for attorneys’ fees. Although neither error goes to the validity of Miller’s alleged debt, Slamowitz’s failure to inquire into such core issues implicates basic concerns of attorney competence and speaks directly to an appreciable lack of professional care in preparing the matter for debt-collection and/or legal action. 8 This Court thus concludes that, in cases such as here, where an attorney commences suit in so uninformed a manner that he is ignorant even as to what law governs his suit, it cannot be said that he has undertaken a level of review sufficient to satisfy even the most general requirements applicable to attorney conduct, let alone the more focused review requirements established by the FDCPA.

From attorney Abramson’s testimony, READ if you are sending CEASE & DESIST letters:

… So before I sent the collection letter out I had the opportunity to review that Mr. Miller had disputed the amount. He had offered a reduced settlement on the account. I reviewed that my client had rejected that settlement. I had reviewed that Mr. Miller subsequently sent a cease and desist to them demanding that they not contact him any further. And the next note that my client had sent is that as a result of that they had to forward it to litigation attorneys because Mr. Miller had barred Lord & Taylor from contacting him any further with respect to the account; so they didn’t have any other remedies. …

Those free dispute letters on the web may well get you sued.  Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.

The judge’s word on Slamowitz’s testimony:

… Indeed, this Court finds Slamowitz’s testimony overall to be lacking in credibility based on his lack of facility in answering basic questions about his practice and the Miller file, his demeanor on the witness stand, and his interest in the outcome of these proceedings. He claimed to remember the Miller file, but only because the debtor shared a name with others quite well known. His familiarity with his own firm’s files, both paper and electronic, was woefully inadequate for a man who professed to be an experienced and able collections attorney, confident in the systems and processes in place that guided his work. Thus, given the nature of Slamowitz’s testimony coupled with the undisputed, credible evidence establishing Slamowitz’s failure to personally review any of the relevant underlying data, the Court finds that DCS did not conduct a sufficient attorney review for FDCPA purposes.

Moreover, that DCS and Slamowitz failed to comply with the FDCPA’s requirements in this case is further supported by evidence regarding the practices within DCS including the daily and monthly volume of matters handled by DCS partners Cohen and Slamowitz, as well as the manner in which DCS personnel documented their collection activities. First, by their own testimony, Cohen and Slamowitz conceded the issuance of no fewer than 211 debt-collection
letters on July 18th alone, and more than 3,000 such letters in the month of July, 2000. Compare Clomon, 988 F.2d at 1321; Boyd, 275 F.3d at 648. Additionally, DCS’s own computer records reflect accurate, contemporaneous entries by those non-attorney personnel at DCS who reviewed the Miller file and authorized the printing of the summons and complaint. 10 The records also confirm Slamowitz’s complete lack of involvement with Miller’s file until November 30, 2000, well after the Miller litigation began. Although Slamowitz and Cohen suggested that the lack of a timely notation regarding Slamowitz’s involvement with the Miller file is likely attributable to a combination of Slamowitz’s absent-mindedness and the lack of any industry standard for record keeping as of 2000, these explanations are wholly self-serving and without support. The volume of business at DCS, coupled with practices followed in the Miller matter, supports the conclusion that debt collection letters and litigation documents were regularly mass-produced at DCS by non-lawyers at the push of a button. In sum, a preponderance of the credible evidence presented at trial demonstrates DCS’s lack of any meaningful attorney review ofthe Miller file,
despite the contrary implications of  DCS’s July 18th debt-collection letter and the subsequent court filings. As such, DCS is liable for misrepresentations in violation of  FDCPA§ 1692e.

I can testify and DOCUMENT that as of 11/09, AFTER this ruling, Cohen & Slamowitz did NOT have an attorney assigned to my client’s case several months AFTER they filed suit.

In fact, I was advised by (paralegal?) Ms. Spivack that attorneys are NOT assigned to active lawsuits until an answer has been filed.

Presumably, if NO answer is filed as in MOST debt collection litigation against consumers, no attorney ever gets involved and the paralegals handle everything.

Cohen & Slamowitz actually sent an attorney from ANOTHER firm to a hearing and he had NO idea what was going on.  He assured my client that he would not appear on their behalf again.

Unfortunately, this is how most collection law firms operate, although that Cohen & Slamowitz CONTINUES to ignore us is rather unique.

I uploaded the docket and the 9/30/09 Memorandum to the CreditFactors litigation knowledgebase and I also have some of the other filings.  Please post at the CreditFactors member forum if you’re interested in this or any other credit and collection cases and I’ll try to upload relevant filings and orders.

Please remember that I am NOT an attorney and that I can NOT write your filings.

I only provide RESOURCES, help you find your court’s rules and do RESEARCH for you.  I found the Miller case for my client and I hope it will  be useful when he files counter claims or when he sues them for FDCPA violations.

I specialize in DOCUMENTING illegal activities by collectors and  attorneys, drafting complaints with REGULATORS for my clients and and I can TESTIFY on your behalf in court.  Some of my regulatory complaints are published:

Debt Collector Portfolio Recovery FDCPA and FCRA Complaints with FTC and Attorneys General

Experian and DeVry Reporting False Late Payments and Refusal to Delete

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