We filed a class action complaint on behalf of Sgt. Charles Beard and other servicemembers, and issued this press release last week:
Attorneys for plaintiff Sergeant Charles Beard have filed a class action complaint that alleges that Satander Consumer USA and Triad Financial Corporation illegally and routinely repossess automobiles belonging to active duty U.S. military personnel without first obtaining a court order, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, also alleges that the defendants fail to reduce the applicable interest rate to six percent for any servicemember who provides them with notification under Section 527 of the SCRA. According to Sgt. Beard’s attorney, Sergei Lemberg, “While our sailors, airmen, and Marines are exhibiting unparalleled patriotism and sacrificing so much, unscrupulous companies are stealing their cars. Violating the SCRA is simply unpatriotic.”
Sgt. Beard, who is in the Army National Guard, purchased a Kia Sportage in September 2007 and began making payments to Triad Financial. In August 2008, Sgt. Beard was ordered to active duty and was deployed abroad. The suit alleges that the defendants repossessed Sgt. Beard’s Sportage in February 2009, despite his wife telling them that her husband was on active duty and that a court order was required to repossess the car. A representative of the defendants allegedly told Mrs. Beard that she would go to jail for a stolen car if she did not return the vehicle. Although an Army legal assistance attorney advised the defendants that Sgt. Beard was protected under the SCRA, the suit alleges that they nonetheless sold his Sportage at auction, and kept both the auction proceeds and Sgt. Beard’s payments.
According to the court filing, the defendants’ repossession of Sgt. Beard’s vehicle in violation of the SCRA is typical, and therefore qualifies for class action status. It notes that, after reviewing many jurisdictions heavily populated by military personnel, it was found that the defendants routinely fail to determine whether a delinquent borrower is in the military or on active duty. It says, “Defendants routinely ignore servicemembers’ rights under the SCRA and wrongfully repossess their cars without obtaining the required court orders.” Moreover, the court filing notes that the defendants routinely charge more than the six percent interest rate allowed by the SCRA.
Since September 11, 2001, more than one million courageous men and women have stepped forward to defend the U.S. and its founding principles through their military service. Our nation has witnessed the focus and determination of our brave men and women in uniform – a commitment that has cost many their limbs and others their lives. Serving in approximately 150 countries around the globe, U.S. servicemembers make sacrifices on a daily basis. Says Lemberg, “The very lives of our men and women in uniform depend upon their ability to focus on the job at hand. The SCRA is meant to ensure that they aren’t distracted by matters back home.”
Lemberg notes that those in the military sacrifice tremendously for our country in the name of freedom. The case filing says, “It is against equity and good conscience to permit [the] defendants to retain the ill-gotten proceeds of the vehicle’s repossession and sale and from charging illegal rates of interest.” Lemberg concludes, “We will fight on Sgt. Beard’s behalf – and servicemembers like him – to see that the defendants are brought to justice.”
This release references Beard vs. Santander Consumer USA, Inc. and Triad Financial Corporation (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, Fresno Division, 1:11-cv-01815-LJO-BAM).