Fort Lauderdale (March 2017) – That 16,000 plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against electronic check recovery company ReSubmitit and Fort Lauderdale-based BankAtlantic received 100% of their losses following the settlement of the lawsuit is big news. What’s also compelling is that three worthy charitable organizations, including two South Florida pro bono legal services organizations will share more than $100,000 of the award.
The case against the two companies had alleged that $700,000 in Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) fees were improperly collected from numerous Florida consumers.
The case arose when lead plaintiff, Ruth Muzuco, discovered that ReSubmitit had resubmitted for collection a December 2010 check to her attorney for $1,000 that previously had been returned for non-sufficient funds (NSF). While resubmitting a check is legal, it was alleged that BankAtlantic automatically enrolled the attorney into a check resubmission program with ReSubmitit who then improperly resubmitted and endorsed an electronic check and collected a $50 fee from Ms. Muzuco.
The five-count suit claimed the ReSubmitit and BankAtlantic violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, the Federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and Regulation E in dealing with resubmission of checks originally denied for insufficient funds. It also claimed unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy.
What piqued Ms. Muzuco’s interest was a notation on her bank statement that her attorney was collecting the $50 resubmission fee. Not only did the attorney not authorize resubmission of the check or seek a fee, ReSubmitit and BankAtlantic had done so without his consent or authorization. Moreover, BankAtlantic sent the attorney a copy of plaintiff’s check, stamped “Non-Negotiable” and “Do Not Redeposit,” according to the complaint.
Upon further investigation by the plaintiff law firms, it was discovered that thousands of people had been charged these improper resubmission fees. The case was settled in September 2014.
The class members were not required to complete any claim form to receive compensation, they were simply sent checks, in the mail. When all the checks were not cashed, the Court ordered a second round of checks be sent, and if any of that second round of checks were not cashed, that remaining funds be donated, cy pres, to these three worthy charities, Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society and The Florida Justice Association Charitable Foundation.
In the end, about $108,000 in proceeds went unclaimed by class members, and each organization will receive about $36,000.
The Plaintiff Class was represented by three law firms, Shapiro Haber and Urmy, in Boston Massachusetts, and two well-known and established South Florida Law Firms, Kelley / Uustal in Ft. Lauderdale, and Liggio Law, in West Palm Beach in addition to attorney Dan Kaufman participating as co-counsel.
“Not only did we get a 100% recovery for the class members, which doesn’t normally happen, the money that went un-deposited by about 2,000 plaintiffs is going to worthy causes,” said John Uustal, of Kelley / Uustal who represented the plaintiffs with Kelley / Uustal attorneys Kristin Bianculli and Michael Hersh, and Jordan Lewis, Esq.
Co-counsel Jeffrey Liggio, of Liggio Law, added: “This case is also especially noteworthy, because, the settlement proceeds were first distributed to the class, without any requirement for class members to fill out and submit a potentially confusing and misleading claim form….. they were simply sent their money. The fact that the remaining funds will be distributed to charities that will use the money to help others is just an added bonus.”