Fry Law Corporation

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Why Having a Lawyer is Important.

Facing a legal battle is not something anyone wants to do. However, if it happens to you, having a lawyer can be critical.

Most cases belong to the client and not the attorney. However, having an attorney is like having a co-pilot. You are driving the ship but the lawyer has the map.

Fry Law Corporation has seen a lot of situations where having an attorney has helped the case.

In one instance, a personal injury client came in to our office. She handed us a letter from the insurance company that said, “given the minor impact of the crash, we don’t feel you were injured.” The problem is, she was injured. It wasn’t a million-dollar case but it had value. We sued and she ended up with about $10,000.00! The insurance company changed their tune after we got involved.

In another instance, a tenant was being evicted for non-payment of rent and sued for damages. The landlord was demanding over $10,000.00. Fry Law Corporation was able to negotiate a settlement where the tenant got time to vacate and only had to pay $3,500.00. Without us, they would have been kicked out and owing a lot of money.

In a foreclosure case, the client walked in and told us that the bank would simply not return her calls. She was struggling and facing a sale date but wanted to try for a loan modification. She could make the payments but the arrearages were just too high. We sued and within a few days, the bank responded and offered a loan modification. She walked out and kept her home. 

Fry Law Corporation is here to assist in pursuing or defending all legal issues!

Trial Period Plan Modification Lawsuits

Hundreds of thousands of California homeowners have faced foreclosure in the recent years. To remedy this, nearly all fifty states have sued the largest financial institutions leading to National Mortgage Settlements. The federal government has even had to step in and created the Making Home Affordable Program, otherwise known as HAMP.

HAMP has led to numerous saved homes. However, banks have still botched loan modification efforts though they receive billions in federal funds.

Fry Law Corporation sees one particular fact pattern all too often. That is, a botched trial period plan modification (“TPP”).

A TPP is a loan modification approval wherein the bank offers a permanent loan modification (or a review) if the borrower makes three trial period payments. If the three payments are made, the bank offers the borrower a permanent loan modification. Well…that’s what they are supposed to do.

Lawsuits ensue!

The problem with the banks is, they can’t seem to keep track of the TPP database. Fry Law Corporation sees botched TPP modifications primarily in the following ways: 1) a borrower has made all three trial payments but never received the permanent modification; 2) a borrower is in the middle of making the three trial payments and the loan is transferred from one servicer to another; and 3) a borrower makes all three trial period payments but is subsequently denied a permanent modification.

The Authority.

TPP lawsuits are based primarily on contract. When a party gets another party to act (or not act) in reliance on a promise, if the person who acted (i.e. made the trial payments), the promise has to be honored by the other side.

This is applicable because the banks are getting borrowers to pay trial payments in reliance on a promise to save the home. The borrower should be afforded an opportunity to keep the home if they hold up their end of the bargain!

The first published case on point is West v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 780. In West, the Court found that a “trial period plan” is a promise to review the borrowers and approve them for a HAMP sponsored loan modification if they made no misrepresentations about their financial position. (Ibid. at 798) The West panel came to this conclusion because the defendant in that case received federal funds to aid borrowers in default. At 786, a lengthy discussion of the HAMP program ensues and defines a trial period plan as the first stage of the modification process.

West has been followed by several other cases including a great recent opinion in Daniels v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 1150. These cases have applicability to any bank subject to HAMP. Including but not limited to; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Bank of America, N.A.

Courts are requiring that the banks honor the agreement and offer a modification if the home has not been sold. If the home has been sold, the banks are required to pay damages if a borrower prevails.

If you have had a botched TPP modification, you need an attorney who has an extensive knowledge of the law surrounding them. Fry Law Corporation is happy to help.

Personal Injury Claims

Each kind of claim that falls under the classification of tort claims has two fundamental components. The first of these components is the liability whereas the second is the damages. This is regardless of whether the tort committed was intentional, negligence or strict liability. As such, in order for you as an aggrieved party to be successful in your personal injury claims, you must ensure that you prove both liability and damages. The courts can only award you compensation for your loss upon determining that you have sufficiently proved the existence of damages that occurred as a result of a tort committed by the defendant in question and through proving that the defendant is really liable of committing the said tort.

There are many kinds of personal injury cases. One typical example is that of accidents involving vehicles. This is quite a good example of how personal injury cases functions.  In cases where you fall victim of an accident where the driver who caused the accident failed to exercise reasonable care, then you being the victim will be entitled to make a negligence claim in a "fault" state. This is simply because every driver is obligated to ensure that they carry out reasonable care whenever they are on the road (ABA Website, 2017). A breach of this duty by drivers thereby results in damages which upon being sufficiently proved shall require the said driver to compensate the injured party through enabling them to recover their damages. The system may however be different in certain states depending on the legislation that has been put in place in those said states. Aside from motor vehicle accidents, tort claims can stem from a variety of situations as well. Examples of such situations are inclusive of medical malpractice amongst very many other situations.

   Other than negligence, other grounds for personal injury claims are inclusive of strict liability which is has witnessed a significant growth with regards to tort law in the recent past. Strict liability is important as it helps making designers and manufacturers strictly liable for injuries that arise form defective products. A good example lies in the case of Donoghue versus Stevenson where the facts of the case were such that, Mrs. Donoghue drinking a bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley, Renfrewshire. A dead snail was in the bottle. She fell ill, and she sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to her, which was breached, because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product's safety would lead to harm of consumers (Martin, 2008). Such cases do not need the injured person to establish negligence of the manufacturer. The injured person is only required to prove that the product was designed or manufactured in a manner that made it unreasonably dangerous when used as intended (ABA Website, 2017).

The last ground for personal injury is that of intentional wrongs. Examples of such wrongs are inclusive of assault and battery as well as false imprisonment.

It is important to note that just like other civil claims, there are certain time limits with regards to filing of personal injury claims. These time limits are referred to as "statutes of limitations," and their function is to regulate the period of time during which you must file a personal injury lawsuit (ABA Website, 2017).  These statutes of limitations vary depending on the regulations provided in different states. Failure to file for a personal injury case in due time leads to the case being thrown out automatically.



American Bar Association Website, (2017). Personal injury. Retrieved on January 24th, 2017 from

Martin, R. T. (2008). "The Most Famous Litigant". Donoghue vs. Stevenson Digital Resources. Scottish Council of Law Reporting.

Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Lawyer

Not every legal matter requires the use of an attorney. Fighting a speeding ticket and going to small claims courts are two examples. However, in many other situations involving a legal dispute, challenge, or deal, you may not wish to chance the risks of going it alone without the advice of an experienced lawyer who can help you out. In fact, while good legal representation may not be cheap, it can help get you out of a number of sticky situations.

While each person's legal situation is different, there are times when you really should hire a lawyer. Below are the top ten reasons.

1. The law is complicated. If you are not a lawyer you probably have no business acting like one in certain instances. Even experienced lawyers typically do not represent themselves in court. A solid case can quickly unravel without the help of a trained and emotionally detached attorney. Similarly, failing to hire a lawyer when starting a business, reviewing a contract or embarking on other endeavors with potential legal ramifications can result in otherwise avoidable pitfalls.

2. Not having a lawyer may actually cost you more. What is at stake? A criminal case may determine whether or not you spend time behind bars, while a civil case could hurt you financially. Besides, many civil attorneys don't collect a dime unless they win your case. Also, you may be able to claim legal fees as a plaintiff in a civil case, so hiring a lawyer can actually save or make you money.

3. Lawyers know how to challenge (and sometimes suppress) evidence.You may not even know that a key piece of evidence against you was improperly obtained or that the testimony of a witness contradicts an earlier statement. And did the crime lab properly handle the evidence every step of the way? Your attorney will find out.

4. Attorneys understand how to properly file court documents and handle other legal procedures. If you're not an attorney, you may struggle with the deadlines and protocol for properly filling out and filing certain legal documents. One late or incorrect filing could derail your case, delay a given legal procedure or worse - have the case thrown out altogether (and not in your favor).

5. Because you don't know any expert witnesses or private detectives.Attorneys depend on an extended network of professionals to help their clients' cases. Most non-attorneys do not personally know the types of professionals who can help with discovery or challenge evidence or testimony by the opposing party.

6. You're not sure how to plead -- or what a 'pleading' is? Pleading guilty is not the only choice, even if there is evidence pointing directly at you. An attorney who understands the law will be best situated to explain your options and can help you avoid potentially severe penalties even before a criminal trial begins.

7. Because it is probably better to avoid problems in the first place rather than try to fix them once they arise. You may have heard the saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" Well, hiring a lawyer in many instances will help you avoid potential legal headaches down the road. Do you really understand the fine print of that contract you are signing? A lawyer will.

8. A good lawyer can strike up a good settlement offer or plea bargain, if necessary. An experienced lawyer probably has seen cases similar to yours or at least knows enough to make a calculated guess about how it might resolve at trial. Sometimes a settlement is the best choice, while other times it makes more sense to see your case through to trial. An attorney also can help negotiate a fair settlement with the opposing party.

9. The other party has legal representation. Non-attorneys are generally at a disadvantage when squaring off against opposing counsel or doing business with another party that has legal counsel. As explained above, the law is complicated and an attorney representing your adversary (or even a non-adversarial party entering into a legal agreement with you) will take advantage of this inequity.

10. Lawyers often provide a free initial consultation. Since many attorneys will meet with you for free during a face-to-face consultation, there is really no harm in talking with one. Not only will a free consultation give you an idea of the type of case you have, it will help you decide whether you actually need to hire a lawyer.

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FLC: Case of the Week - Wrongful Eviction

Fry Law Corporation would like to highlight its case of the week:

Client, single mother of two, fell behind on her mortgage after her and her husband separated. Foreclosure ensued. The bank sold the home to a third party at auction.

Less than a week later, the third party comes to the house while no one is home, breaks in and proceeds to throw all belongings in the garbage.

Problems: In California, self-help is prohibited. This means that evictions need to be done in a very concise manner following all statutes and rules. This does not mean you can break-in and forcibly evict an entire family. 

Items lost include personal belongings of course but most importantly, 18 years of family photo albums. 

Fry Law Corporation believes in civil justice. These people will pay.

Tune in for more weekly case highlights. 

-Christopher J. Fry

Suing for Violations of the Homeowner Bill of Rights

California’s Homeowner Bill of Rights: An Uphill Battle, But Worth It.

By: Christopher J. Fry, Esq., Fry Law Corporation

Attention Non-CA Readers: Our foreclosure defense services are based on CA law and we are only licensed in CA. If you need foreclosure defense, continue searching for a local attorney.

Yuba County jury awards $16,200,000.00 to a homeowner in a wrongful foreclosure case! (See Linza v. Century 21 Mortgage (2014) Yuba County Superior Court Case No. CV12-0000714.) Now that I’ve got your attention, I hate to break it to you but this award was ultimately substantially reduced to roughly $200,000.00, but it was a win nonetheless.

From 2007 to 2011, there were over 900,000 completed foreclosures in the United States. 38 of the top 100 zip codes were in California. Though the numbers have declined, foreclosures are still an increasing problem. In 2014 foreclosures in California were at an 8 year low with a still staggering 108,000 foreclosures.

Until 2007, the big banks could do no wrong. However, when the market began to crash and the government investigations started, it was quickly discovered that the banks were a huge part of the problem.

First, the bank got away with some very questionable lending practices. More importantly, the banks would simply refuse to work with borrowers who would ultimately default. The banks just didn’t care whether or not a borrower kept their home. If they pretended to care, the cost of managing all of the loan modification applications did not please the shareholders so they simply foreclosed.

From 2007 to 2012, Courts have been inundated with lawsuits against the banks with allegations from unfair business practices all the way up to product liability (I know).

Unfortunately, the banks have been able to slither out from liability based on the case of Nymark v. Heart Federal Savings & Loan Association (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 1089 (“Nymark”).

A reading of Nymark provides a simple statement that a “lender” owes no duty of care whatsoever to a borrower. The case is essentially apples and oranges in terms of dealing with defaulting borrowers as it relates to the appraisal used to support a mortgage. It holds that the bank is not responsible for the negligence of the appraiser at the time of origination. 

Unfortunately, this single case has resulted in thousands upon thousands of demurrers being sustained and cases dismissed as to each and every allegation made by a borrower against the bank. The banks were unstoppable and they continued the ruthless tactics.

Finally, some relief for homeowners!

In 2012, SB900 was introduced and signed into law. SB900 took effect on January 1, 2013 and was touted as the Homeowner Bill of Rights (“HBOR”).

The two most important provisions of the HBOR restrict “dual tracking” and require “single points of contact.” Dual tracking occurs when a bank forecloses on a homeowner while the loan is being reviewed for a modification. A single point of contact has been defined as a person or group of people in which a borrower can immediately contact and receive information about their modification. These provisions only scratch the surface.

Sadly, not even black letter law can put a leash on the Nation’s out-of-control mortgage industry.

While the HBOR provided a false sense of security to homeowners, the truth is that the mortgage industry continues to erroneously rely on Nymark and simply does not care about California law. Homeowners are still being foreclosed upon by the bank while simultaneously being reviewed for a loan modification.

That’s great but what do we do to stop it?

Last year, Mr. Johnson (name changed to protect the innocent) walked into my office. Mr. Johnson and his wife had seen a drop in their income from slow business but had bounced back and had been negotiating a loan modification with their bank Globobank (Ibid.).

The negotiations often take months as the borrowers submit a plethora of documents and then the bank follows up with a variety of questions about those documents. This usually prompts another request for documents.

Though Mr. Johnson and his wife were under a review for a loan modification, they came home to a dozen copies of a Notice of Trustee’s sale on their door. The bank was going to sell their home in less than three weeks.

In one hand, Mr. Johnson held a letter from Globobank confirming review of the modification application but in the other, he held a document of legal significance authorizing the sale of his home.

To Court we go!

We filed our complaint alleging a variety of statutory violations under the HBOR and also included a negligence/negligence per se count for the emotional roller coaster Globobank has put our clients through. The HBOR claims provide for an injunction until the bank is in compliance with the law (i.e. a fair review of the loan modification application).

We reached out to the bank to see if the sale can be taken off so that the application can be fully reviewed and they predictably refused.

We were forced to file an ex parte application for a restraining order and request an OSC for a preliminary injunction. Everything is opposed. Nevertheless, the Judge agrees with our extensive argument and issues the TRO, and ultimately the PI.

Problem solved right? Wrong!

After we get our PI, we reach out to continue to attempt to work out the modification and are assured the modification is under review. Our clients are thrilled.

Shortly thereafter, we receive a demurrer that is essentially identical to the opposition to the PI. We of course oppose it and again, the Judge agrees with our argument and overrules the demurrer in its entirety.

Once we’ve earned the respect of the high powered lawyer representing the bank, we finally get an answer on file and a request to stay the case while they review the modification application.

Close to a year later, we received a loan modification reducing the principal balance by 30% and dropping the interest rate to 2%.

Lovely story but pro bono work doesn’t keep the lights on.

One of the big problems with complex litigation is the enormous legal bills that the lay person simply cannot afford. This is especially true when the clients are homeowners struggling just to pay their mortgage.

One of the integral provisions of the HBOR is a section allowing an award of attorney’s fees to a prevailing party or a borrower who obtains “injunctive relief.” The provision was added to ensure that those who ordinarily could not afford an attorney could be adequately represented so David has help in his fight against Goliath.

In Mr. Johnson’s case, we’ve easily got 100+ hours of attorney time. When we ultimately move for attorney’s fees we will undoubtedly move for a Lodestar multiplier to really make the bank think twice when noticing a sale when a modification is under review.

Don’t want to take the risk based solely on a chance at fees?

While the statute calls for attorney’s fees, recent case law has imposed a negligence duty of care on banks when negotiating a loan modification. In 2014, the case of Alvarez v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, L.P. was decided and held that a negligence cause of action can be sustained if a showing that the lender’s mishandling of loan modification paperwork caused a loss of the opportunity to obtain a loan modification. (See Alvarez v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, L.P. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 941.)

While there has yet to be a case directly on point, if taken as mandating a general duty of care, this case gets over the dreaded Nymark, “the bank can do no wrong” decision, and can easily be interpreted to support emotional distress damages as well. These damages are in addition to damage to credit, loss of equity and improper late fees and charges, all of which were included in the roughly $200,000.00 verdict above.

The best part.

Mr. Johnson and his wife walked into my office with certain homelessness in three weeks. Though we had to climb a mountain to do it, they were in the home for over a year without a mortgage payment and ultimately received the modification and kept their family home.


Can California landlords evict their tenants for smoking legal weed?

Can California landlords evict their tenants for smoking legal weed? It’s a question that is currently under debate in California’s state house, where a new bill could codify landlords’ existing rights to prohibit smoking marijuana in their properties — regardless of whether the smoker is a patient who is legally registered to use the drug medicinally.

The proposal was born out of concern that secondhand smoke of any kind is unhealthy, according to Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), who presented the bill. Wood citedrecent research by the University of California, San Francisco that “suggests that second-hand cannabis smoke results in similar cardiovascular effects as tobacco smoke, and in fact, may result in as much as a 70 percent drop in blood vessel function,” according to press materials.


“This is about protecting families that live in close proximity to others,” Wood said in the release. “Second-hand smoke can be a real problem, especially for families who live in apartments or other multi-family residencies.”

Medical marijuana-approved tenants could still be permitted to using edibles or oil-based capsules. But if caught smoking, the tenant could be evicted.

“Landlords have the authority to prohibit tenants from smoking tobacco in the home; the same rationale applies for cannabis,” said Wood. “AB 2300 would clarify that this authority applies to smoking cannabis as well.”

Medical marijuana advocacy groups are neutral on the bill, but they’ve requested it include an exemption for vaporizer use.

Wood’s press materials also included a quote from Matthew Springer, professor of medicine in the UCSF Division of Cardiology and a member of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education:

“Tobacco and marijuana smoke share thousands of chemicals that result from burning dried plant material, and many of these chemicals are harmful. The adverse cardiovascular effects of secondhand marijuana smoke have only recently begun to be studied, and we are seeing that just a few minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke from tobacco and marijuana have the same negative effect on the ability of arteries to carry enough blood, with marijuana causing a longer-lasting effect than tobacco.”

The bill currently faces the Senate Committee on Rules for assignment this month.

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Wells Fargo to pay $8.5 million in privacy case, none goes to victims

I know the title sounds bad but keep in mind, the Office of the Attorney General uses this money to fund other attacks on big companies behalf of consumers. It will be put to good use.

-Christopher J. Fry

A Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) unit will pay $8.5 million to California and five of the state's counties to settle charges that it violated customers' privacy by recording their calls without first notifying them, state prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Wells Fargo Bank broke California's privacy laws, which require disclosure at the start of a phone call, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement about her office's civil case against the company.

The bank neither admitted nor denied liability, she said.

Harris' office pursued the case with district attorneys for Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Alameda County, Riverside County and Ventura County. The six offices will share $7.6 million of the settlement.

The statement did not mention the violation period. A spokesperson for Harris could not be immediately reached for comment.

Wells Fargo has put procedures in place to ensure that disclosures occur at the beginning of the call, company spokesman Tom Goyda said in a statement.

The settlement requires Wells to establish procedures to ensure compliance, and appoint a supervisor to oversee those measures.

Wells has also agreed to contribute a total of $500,000 to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego and the Consumer Protection Trust Fund.

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Additional reporting by Dan Freed; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Chang)



A New Name of the Game at Nationstar

I hope with this change, they implement better strategies for struggling homeowners.

-Christopher J. Fry

The companies that thrived during the foreclosure crisis are entering an identity crisis.

Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc., which made its name servicing delinquent loans, this summer plans to rename itself “Mr. Cooper.” Foreclosure sales company in January rebranded as “Ten-X.” Mortgage-services firm Altisource Portfolio Solutions last year bought rental-data firm RentRange and real-estate-investment website Investability.

The moves reflect a housing recovery that is threatening the business of foreclosure clean-up firms.

At the end of last year, about 3.4% of mortgages were 90 or more days past due, compared with 9.7% at the peak of the crisis in 2009, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

We wanted it to be a bit radical. We want to make an emotional connection.

—Nationstar CEO Jay Bray

That means there are fewer loans that need the work-intensive services of companies that try to get borrowers current or process foreclosures. It also means far fewer homes are being sold in foreclosure auctions and short sales.

Many companies that made their bread and butter addressing the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis are expanding into other areas of the mortgage and real-estate businesses, in a bid to remain relevant or maintain growth as the housing market continues to strengthen.

Some are buying or launching completely new business lines that they hope can thrive as home prices rise. In the most extreme cases, the companies have decided it makes sense to take on a completely new identity to separate themselves from their foreclosure-related pasts.

“There’s a risk of extinction for companies that are either slow to realize the change in the market or simply don’t adapt. You can expect to see both contraction and extinction of some of these organizations,” said Ed Delgado, chief executive of the Dallas-based Five Star Institute, a provider of education and training programs for the mortgage industry.

Nationstar in February said it would rebrand itself as Mr. Cooper later this year, as it tries to expand its traditional mortgage-lending business.



The company, along with others such as Ocwen Financial Corp., during the crisis bought the rights to service both performing and troubled mortgages from banks at deep discounts, which it would then try to make current again. Nationstar and other mortgage-servicing firms grew rapidly, but in the past couple of years have slowed amid customer complaints, regulatory scrutiny and fewer delinquent loans.

In part as a result, Nationstar is trying to expand beyond mortgage serving and make more loans itself. Last summer, the firm also launched a website where buyers can find homes, real-estate agents and a mortgage.

The most unusual step, however, might be the name change to Mr. Cooper, which Nationstar CEO Jay Bray said was an attempt to make a more personal connection with customers.

“We wanted it to be a bit radical,” Mr. Bray said. “We want to make an emotional connection.”

While the number of employees working at Nationstar has remained relatively steady, the number of people employed in mortgage servicing overall fell to 145,600 in 2014, down from a peak of nearly 170,000 in 2012, according to the most recent data from the MBA.

The trade group expects the number to keep falling as delinquent loans dry up, according to Marina Walsh, the MBA’s vice president of industry analysis. Some mortgage-servicing firms benefited from being able to refinance loans to borrowers they already service as rates were low over the past few years. But as refinances dry up, they have yet to show how well they will be able to get customers who are buying homes, Ms. Walsh said.

Altisource Portfolio Solutions spun out of Ocwen in 2009 and still gets two-thirds of its revenue from helping Ocwen process loans and foreclosed-on properties. As that business has tapered, the company has tried to expand into other segments of the mortgage industry.

Last fall, Altisource bought startups RentRange and Investability, two companies it believes will help it become a player in aiding small investors to buy and rent-out single-family homes. The company also is trying to expand a real-estate website and brokerage.

Altisource CEO William Shepro said he hopes customers other than Ocwen will make up the majority of its revenue within four years. renamed itself Ten-X, in part to get away from its reputation of only handling auctions for foreclosed homes and commercial properties. Ten-X Chief Marketing Officer Rick Shargasaid the name was meant simply to be memorable and to sound “like a technology company.”

Last year, Mr. Sharga said the company sold just 200 homes in nondistressed transactions, versus more than 50,000 homes overall.

Mr. Sharga said he expects it will take up to five years for nondistressed sales to make up a majority of the company’s business.

Although the company had the name since the end of 2010, Mr. Sharga said he believes it is changing its name early enough that consumers won’t be confused.

“The name was very limiting for where we want to go. There are probably some people nervous about it, but this is not a Coke-New Coke kind of thing,” he said, referring to Coca-Cola Co.’s disastrous launch of a new formula in 1985.


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Class-action lawsuit targets P&G's Old Spice deodorant

You have to put safe products out there or you get sued.

-Christopher J. Fry

Procter & Gamble's Old Spice deodorant has caused severe rashes and chemical burns to possibly thousands of "unsuspecting consumers," according to a class-action lawsuit filed this month that seeks more than $5 million in damages.

The lawsuit names 13 Old Spice products – among them, Old Spice Lionpride and Arctic Force High Endurance deodorants – that it says have affected "hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers."

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus, there have been hundreds of online complaints about the products.

"In addition to blog complaints, YouTube features numerous videos also documenting armpit irritation, rash(es) and burning caused by Old Spice deodorant," the lawsuit says. "Indeed, the problem is rampant, and rather than acknowledge the serious issue, Defendant is concealing it, in order to continue selling the product and reap windfall profits."

A spokesman for Procter & Gamble, Damon Jones, said the products are safe to use. The problems a small number of consumers are experiencing are not chemical burns, Jones said, but skin reactions that can be caused by a range of factors or ingredients, such as alcohol or fragrance. The complaints posted online, Jones said, are not exclusive to Old Spice.

“We go to great lengths to ensure our products are safe to use, and tens of millions of men use this product with confidence and without incident every year," Jones said in a statement. "A small number of men may experience irritation due to alcohol sensitivity, a common ingredient across virtually all deodorant products. For men who have experienced a reaction to a deodorant, an antiperspirant may be a better option because they have a different formulation."

A 2008 study, posted on the website for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, said compounds in most deodorants and antiperspirants "have the potential to cause irritant and allergic reactions in many consumers."

The lawsuit says the Old Spice products are defective, and that the people affected have used other deodorants without experiencing burning, rashes or discomfort.

The lead plaintiff is an Alexandria, Virginia, man, who says he suffered severe rashes, burning and discomfort "after only a few uses" of an Old Spice product. Photos of the man's rashes and burns are included in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also includes online complaints, that it says were posted in 2015 by people in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington, Arizona and Ohio.

People posting the complaints described "burns" and chafing. One woman said her husband was burned badly under one arm. She said she called Old Spice to complain and was told by a representative, "I was only the second person in all her three years of working for the company who had complained."

"I told her that she should then do some research online and see the hundreds, if not thousands, (of) pictures of burns from Old Spice," the woman wrote.

Another woman, from Philadelphia, said her husband suffered burns that were red and purple under both armpits. She said she found online complaints dating back to 2009.

"What the heck?" the woman wrote, according to the lawsuit. "They are doing NOTHING… This is blatant disregard for the well-being of their customers."

Jones said any Old Spice user who has questions can call 1-800-677-7582.

Original Article:

Family Files Lawsuit Over Porter Ranch Gas Leak

The first personal lawsuit was filed by a Porter Ranch family against Southern California Gas Co. and Sempra Energy for failing to meet the family's medical and relocation needs after hundreds of residents say a natural gas leak has sickened them.

Christine and Brian Katz filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday, claiming the entire family is experiencing severe health issues as a result of the leak. The family is seeking compensation for their financial losses as a result of SoCalGas' negligence.

Seven weeks ago-- just about the same time the porter ranch gas leak began-- the Katz's say their 2-year-old daughter Ava was rushed to the emergency room and spent four days hospitalized for a breathing problem.

"She's never had a problem breathing she's never had asthma," her mother said.

Christine Katz and her husband say Ava's health problems are the most severe out of their five children since the gas leak was discovered. The Katz family's Porter Ranch home is about a mile from the gas leak.

"When doors open up in my household, bad chemicals come in house," Brian Katz said. "I think it's poisoning our family," his wife added.

The leak was discovered Oct. 23 by crews at the Aliso Canyon Storage Field facility near Northridge. Utility officials initially said the issue would be resolved in a few days or weeks, but later said the leak could actually take months to fix.

County health officials say they have received reports of residents experiencing nosebleeds, dizziness, nausea and headaches linked to the leak and have ordered Southern California Gas Co. to offer free, temporary relocation to area residents.

Lawyers representing hundreds of homeowners impacted by the Porter Ranch gas leak called on Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

Consumer attorney Brian Kabatech says SoCal Gas should be setting up mobile homes and working with people on an individual basis to relocate them.

But because the circumstances are different for each family, some homeowners say moving isn't an option.

"There's a lot of logistics involved. I know several families have moved to hotels and those are all taken," said Jennifer Green, a Porter Ranch homeowner. "People are starting to move into houses. The inventory is getting low."

Green is concerned for her 3-year-old toddler who has recently been diagnosed with a neurological brain disorder, and her 5-year-old who attends a school nearby.

Los Angeles City Atty Mike Feuer has also filed a lawsuit against SoCal Gas over its handling of the incident.

SoCal gas has continues to maintain natural gas is not toxic saying leaking levels are too low for any long term health concerns.

In a written statement, SoCal Gas said: "While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are continuing to do everything we can to support families who have been affected and address their concerns including relocating families should they wish."

No evacuation order for the area has been issued but 700 families have voluntarily left the area and another 1,000 are applying for relocation services, officials said. The Gas Company also opened a community resource center for Porter Ranch residents with questions or concerns. A dedicated website has also been established.

In addition to offering extended stay accommodations for families seeking to temporarily relocate from Porter Ranch, the Gas Company is also offering reimbursements for customers who make their own accommodation arrangements, according to the utility.

Published at 7:57 AM PST on Dec 14, 2015

Jury awards $7.13 million to ex-L.A. Times sports columnist T.J. Simers

A jury awarded $7.13 million on Wednesday to former Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers, who contended the newspaper discriminated against him and forced him out of his $234,000-a-year job after he suffered a mini-stroke in March 2013.

The verdict capped a six-week trial that included testimony from Simers, his former bosses at The Times and L.A. Dodgers ex-manager Tommy Lasorda.

Simers, 65, sued the newspaper in October 2013, alleging top editors fired him as a columnist and subjected him to discrimination because of his age and a disability.

The Times called his claims baseless and contended that Simers quit in September 2013 after being disciplined for failing to fully disclose to his editors an outside business relationship with a television producer. The newspaper's ethics guidelines require full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury of eight women and four men deliberated for two days. Foreman Orie McLemore said afterward that the panel could not reconcile Simers' history of positive performance reviews with The Times' response to the ethics violation, which involved taking away his column but keeping him on staff as a reporter.

"It seemed that they didn't deal with Mr. Simers in a proper manner," McLemore said. "How can you take someone who's been doing that well and then all of a sudden he's not up to par? I have got to feel there's something there."

Simers declined to comment on the verdict. The Times plans to appeal.

"We believe the allegations Mr. Simers made against the Los Angeles Times are unfounded, and we are filing an appeal," said Hillary Manning, a spokeswoman for The Times. "Our editors acted to protect the integrity of the newspaper and to uphold fundamental principles of journalistic ethics. We will continue to work through the legal system to resolve this matter."

Simers, who joined The Times in 1990 and became a columnist 10 years later, initially sought $18 million in damages, but later revised his damages demand to $12.3 million.

Jurors awarded him $330,000 for past lost wages, $1.8 million for future economic damages and $5 million for past and future emotional pain and suffering. The panel declined to award punitive damages.

In his lawsuit and at trial, Simers alleged that his troubles at The Times began only after he suffered what was first diagnosed as a transient ischemic attack, or mini-stroke, in March 2013 while covering baseball spring training in Arizona. He later was diagnosed with complex migraine syndrome.

After his health problems surfaced, Simers contended, his work drew increased scrutiny and criticism by Times Editor Davan Maharaj and Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin.

In May 2013, then-sports editor Mike James told Simers his three weekly columns would be reduced to two in an effort to improve their quality, citing several recent ones that were "poorly written or reflected poorly" on the newspaper.

"Simers was shocked, troubled and surprised because he had never been criticized for the very essence of his column style before his mini stroke in March of 2013, and he believed his health was the real reason these alleged issues were suddenly coming to light," his trial brief stated.

Times editors and their lawyers said Simers never complained of discrimination, because none occurred. They countered his contention that they were trying get rid of him to make room for younger, less expensive writers by noting that 90% of the sports staffers at the time were over age 40 and more than two-thirds were older than 50.

"The evidence in this case shows he was investigated and disciplined for what he did ... not his age, not his disability," Times attorney Emilio Gonzalez told jurors during closing arguments.

That evidence included emails between Simers and his editors that appeared to contradict his claim they were using his illness against him. In one email, Duvoisin wrote that Simers' column was "as vigorous and delightful as ever" and urged the ailing writer to "take as much time as you need" to rest and recuperate.

"We need another 20 years of columns out of you before you hang it up, so take whatever time you need to feel better," he wrote.

The key issue in Simers' case, according to The Times, was that he failed to fully disclose his relationship with a television producer who'd made a short video featuring the columnist, his daughter and NBA star Dwight Howard. The Times alleged that Simers concealed that he and producer Mike Tollin had a longstanding business relationship and were trying to develop a father-daughter themed television project based on the writer's life.

Instead, Simers told sports editor James that a "friend" was shooting the video, which he wanted to link to The Times' website to accompany his column, the newspaper's lawsuit states.

The issue came to a head in June 2013, when the Sports Business Journal reported that Tollin's company, Mandalay Sports Media, "is developing a TV comedy loosely based on the life of acerbic Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers, one of several projects the 15-month-old sports production company has in the pipeline."

Tollin was quoted as saying the video, which was posted to The Times' website briefly and then widely viewed elsewhere, was made to "create buzz" for the TV project.

"You'll never know if the viral video will help the series get off the ground," Tollin told the publication. "But we know that it won't hurt."

When Times editors learned of the Sports Business Journal article on June 13, they suspended Simers with pay and commenced an internal investigation.

Simers maintained that his supervisors knew of his relationship with Tollin, had long known and approved of his efforts to launch a TV career, and that the father-daughter sitcom project was dead. He testified that he told Times editors "I have no TV show" and no business relationship with Tollin's company.

"And if there's no TV show, I certainly wasn't promoting a TV show that doesn't exist on our website," he testified. "I was dumbfounded."

Simers initially accused Times editors of punishing him under pressure from Arte Moreno and Frank McCourt, then the respective owners of the Angels and Dodgers, for columns he'd written about them. He later contended the editors were fabricating allegations to get rid of him and replace him with a younger writer.

"They had to make him look devious and underhanded and slimy ... someone who is not who he is: a brutally honest person," Simers' attorney, Carney Shegerian, told the jury.

The newspaper's investigation revealed emails it said proved the columnist had a continuing business relationship with Tollin and later tried to cover it up with a series of "denials, half-truths and evasive answers," Times attorney Gonzalez told jurors.

"He was not honest with his editors and, as a result, he was not honest with his readers," he said.

Times Editor Maharaj said the columnist's actions did not rise to the level of firing, but that he had lost the trust of editors — and the privilege of writing a column.

"He had so many chances to tell us the truth and he didn't," he testified. "I honestly felt betrayed."

In August 2013, Simers' editors told him his column was being taken away and that he would become a reporter, keeping his full pay and benefits. At the urging of then-publisher Eddy Hartenstein, they relented and offered Simers a one-year contract to resume his column, on the condition that he agree to abide by the paper's ethics guidelines.

Simers instead resigned Sept. 6, 2013, one day after accepting a job at the Orange County Register with a salary of $190,000.

The next month he sued The Times, alleging that his working conditions were so unbearable he could not return and was, in effect, fired.

Less than a year later, he took a buyout from the Register and retired. He testified at trial that he "had run out of steam" and was writing many of his columns from a coffee shop instead of going to the ballpark.

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Predatory Lending

Predatory lending occurs when a borrower enters into a loan transaction with terms and conditions that are abusive, unfair, and deceptive. Although several state and federal laws are designed to deter predatory lending tactics, the most effective deterrent is an informed consumer.

What is Predatory Lending?

Lending can become predatory when aggressive tactics are used to convince a borrower to agree to unfair or abusive loan terms and conditions. Although there is no single definition for predatory lending, it generally occurs when a lending company, broker, or even home improvement contractor takes undue advantage of borrowers by deception, fraud, or manipulation.

Predatory lenders charge excessive fees, interest rates, and pre-payment penalties and often require balloon payments. Frequently, lending decisions are made without considering the borrower’s ability to repay, and predatory lenders may permit repeated refinancing over a short period of time without any economic gain for the borrower.

Although predatory lending occurs across various demographic groups, predatory terms are often targeted at the elderly, minorities, and low-income homeowners. Victims of predatory lending practices often face financial crisis, including bankruptcy and home foreclosure, as a result of the deceptive conduct.

Anti-Predatory Lending Laws

Several laws are designed to protect consumers against predatory/abusive lending practices. On the federal level, the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) requires lenders to disclose the APR and loan terms, and the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act, which is an amendment to TILA was specifically designed to identify predatory mortgage loans. In addition, other consumer protection laws such as the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act), have provisions that deter predatory lending practices.

Moreover, many states have their own anti-predatory laws that are designed to address abusive mortgage lending by restricting the terms or provisions of certain loans. In addition, states have increased the registration or licensing requirements of mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders and have undertaken enforcement activities under existing consumer protection laws and regulations to combat abusive lending.

Numerous federal, state, and non-profit agencies offer assistance for victims of predatory lending practices, including the U.S. Department of JusticeHousing and Urban Development (HUD), state and local consumer protection agencies, state attorney general’s office, debt counseling agencies, consumer protection agencies and other nonprofit organizations such as the AARP.

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Defenses to Foreclosure

Until recently, successful defenses against foreclosure were relatively rare. But that is changing rapidly -- more homeowners are successfully challenging foreclosure actions.

This change is due, in large part, to the unearthing of more and more evidence that the real estate industry has been rife with fraudulent and predatory lending practices. Because of this evidence, courts that once rubber-stamped foreclosure actions are now shifting their sympathies towards homeowners.

Homeowners and their attorneys are taking advantage of this change in judicial attitude, and challenging foreclosure actions in many different ways. Here's a review of some of the most common defenses to foreclosure, and how to raise them in court.

How to Raise a Defense to Foreclosure

In order to raise a defense to the foreclosure action, you must bring the issue before a judge. This is automatic in about half the states, where foreclosures are typically accomplished through civil lawsuits and judicial foreclosure orders.

In the other states, foreclosures typically take place outside of court (these are called nonjudicial foreclosures) and you have no automatic means to mount a legal challenge. To have your defenses ruled on by a judge in these states, you have to file a lawsuit alleging that the foreclosure is illegal for some reason and asking the court to put the foreclosure on hold -- pending the court's review of the case. 

Common Foreclosure Defenses

As courts are increasingly sympathetic to challenges to foreclosure actions, attorneys across the country are raising many different types of defenses. Below is a description of the most common of these.

Defending foreclosures using the Homeowner Bill of Rights

In 2012, SB900 was introduced and signed into law. SB900 took effect on January 1, 2013 and was touted as the Homeowner Bill of Rights (“HBOR”).

The two most important provisions of the HBOR restrict “dual tracking” and require “single points of contact.” Dual tracking occurs when a bank forecloses on a homeowner while the loan is being reviewed for a modification. A single point of contact has been defined as a person or group of people in which a borrower can immediately contact and receive information about their modification. These provisions only scratch the surface.

Sadly, not even black letter law can put a leash on the Nation’s out-of-control mortgage industry.

While the HBOR provided a false sense of security to homeowners, the truth is that the mortgage industry continues to erroneously rely on Nymark and simply does not care about California law. Homeowners are still being foreclosed upon by the bank while simultaneously being reviewed for a loan modification.

The Terms of the Mortgage Are Unconscionable

Over the years, attorneys have used a branch of law called "equity" to come up with a panoply of approaches to defending against foreclosure. The equity branch of law focuses on fairness in situations where a legal statute doesn't provide adequate relief. It usually isn't enough to simply claim that the foreclosure is unfair; rather, you have to come up with a specific justification for your position that has previously been recognized by the courts.

One such justification is a principle known as unconscionability -- that is, the terms of your mortgage, or the circumstances surrounding it, are so unfair that they "shock the conscience of the judge." In one case where this defense was successful the borrower spoke very little English, was pressured to agree to a loan that he obviously couldn't repay, was not represented by an attorney, and was unaware of the harsh terms attached to the loan (such as an unaffordable balloon payment ).

You Are a Service member on Active Duty

If you're on active military duty, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides you with special protections. Most importantly, if you took out your mortgage before you were on active duty, your foreclosure must take place in court even if foreclosures in your state customarily occur outside of court. If a foreclosure is initiated while you're on active duty, you can receive a postponement of the proceeding by requesting it from the court in writing.

The Foreclosing Party Didn't Follow State Procedures

In some cases, the foreclosing party doesn't follow state procedural requirements for bringing a foreclosure action (for example, it fails to properly serve on you a notice of default required by state law). If this happens, you may be able to challenge the foreclosure. If your challenge is successful, the court will issue an order requiring the foreclosing party to start over.

Virtually all judges will overlook errors that are inconsequential, such as the misspelling of a name. Similarly, if the foreclosing party's error doesn't actually cause you any harm, it may not be worth fighting over. More serious violations will get a more serious.

The Foreclosing Party Can't Prove It Owns the Mortgage

Only the mortgage holder (the loan owner or someone acting on the owner's behalf) may bring the action. If your mortgage, like many, has been sold and bought by many different banks, lenders, and investors, proving just who owns it can be difficult for the last holder in the chain. Appropriate documentation of who owns the mortgage must be presented, and this is often difficult for the foreclosing party to do.

The Mortgage Servicer Made a Serious Mistake

Mortgage servicers (entities who contract with banks and other lenders to receive and disburse mortgage payments and enforce the terms of the mortgage) make mistakes all the time when they're dealing with borrowers. A study by law professor Katherine M. Porter showed that in 1,700 Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, a majority of the claims submitted by mortgage owners had errors. (Misbehavior and Mistake in Bankruptcy Mortgage Claims, Texas Law Review 2008.)

You may be able to challenge the foreclosure based on mistakes such as:

  • crediting your payments to the wrong party (so you weren't, in fact, delinquent to the extent asserted by the foreclosing party)
  • imposing excessive fees or fees not authorized by the lender or owner, or
  • substantially overstating the amount you must pay to reinstate your mortgage.

Mistakes on the amount you must pay to reinstate your mortgage are especially serious. This is because an overstated amount may deprive you of the main remedy available to keep your home. For example, if the mortgage holder says you owe $4,500 to reinstate (perhaps because it imposes unreasonable costs and fees), when in fact you owe only $3,000, you may not have been able to take advantage of reinstatement (say you could have afforded $3,000, but not $4,500).

The Original Lender Engaged in Unfair Lending Practices

You may be able to fight your foreclosure by proving that your lender violated a federal or state law designed to protect borrowers from illegal lending practices. Two federal laws protect against unfair lending practices associated with residential mortgages and loans: the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and an amendment to TILA commonly termed the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA).

Lenders violate TILA when they don't make certain disclosures in the mortgage documents, including the annual percentage rate, the finance charge, the amount financed, the total payments, the payment schedule, and more.

In the case of loans covered by HOEPA, lenders must comply with various notice provisions and are prohibited from using certain mortgage terms, such as prepayment penalties if the loan is a high-cost home loan.

The right to rescind the loan. TILA and HOEPA provide a number of remedies for the borrower if these laws are violated. However, the key remedy in foreclosure actions is the borrower's ability to retroactively cancel or rescind the loan under certain circumstances if the violation is "material" (that is, significant or substantial). This is referred to as the right to an "extended rescission." 

State-law remedies for "high-cost" loans. A few states have special protections for people facing foreclosure on "high-cost" mortgages. If your state is one of these, and the lender has violated any of its provisions, you might be able to raise that violation as a defense in your foreclosure case.

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Property owners seek justice from foreclosure at Fresno rally

Do not let the bank walk all over you.

-Christopher J. Fry, Esq.

California property owners who lost homes or land to foreclosure filled the Mariposa Mall in downtown Fresno late Thursday afternoon to support the plaintiff in a lawsuit being heard at the B.F. Sisk Courthouse.

Organizers say at least 2,100 people hopped aboard buses or drove from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and cities in between to hear the latest in the case of Larry Brown vs. Bank of America and other large banks and financial institutions named as defendants.

The marchers wore white and orange T-shirts with the word Lifesavers printed on the front and back. Lifesavers is a growing organization of property owners interested in helping each other, said the Rev. Nigel “Doc” Johnson, president.

Rev. Nigel “Doc” Johnson, president of Lifesavers

“We are currently in court, here in Fresno, to right the wrongs of the banks,” said Johnson, who is from Stockton.

Brown and about 1,200 property owners are in a fight to seek damages from wrongful foreclosure and unfair business practices, according to court documents.

The property owners are from all over, including some in the Central Valley, Johnson said. Rally organizers say Lifesavers has 11,000 members nationwide.

The defendants, represented by attorney Scott Hammel of Walnut Creek, asked Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan for a change of venue. She ruled against it and set a hearing date for Nov. 18.

BoNhia Lee: 559-441-6495, @bonhialee

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Uber’s worker misclassification lawsuit must proceed as a class action, judge says

It is important to properly categorize employees (i.e. W2 vs. 1099). There are various civil and administrative penalties companies face when categorizing as contractors instead of employees and those who improperly categorize are being cracked down on.


The drivers suing Uber claim they were employees, not independent contractors, and that Uber misclassified them. Also, the class will only include drivers for UberX, a service in which drivers use their own cars, and UberBlack, a high-end town vehicle service.

The ruling is “a very big deal”, said Beth A. Ross, an employment lawyer who won a similar case against FedEx Corp.

Uber had argued that the drivers should not be allowed to sue as a group because they have little in common and relate to the company in different ways. Some Uber drivers sign up directly with the company and others are subcontractors working for larger transportation companies. “Should the jury determine they are Uber’s employees… they are likely to be entitled to relief as a class at least with respect to the California tips law”.

“What the court said was, look, that [argument] might be good for the goal of the merits for the case, but you’re essentially admitting to the court that you treat everyone the same, which supports a finding for class certification”, Giamela said.

In arguing against class action status, Uber had submitted sworn statements from hundreds of drivers supporting the company.

“While we are not surprised by this court’s ruling, we are pleased that it has chose to certify only a tiny fraction of the class that the plaintiffs were seeking”, the Uber spokeswoman said. On Tuesday, a federal judge granted Uber drivers class-action status in their case against the company. In July, the company provided the court with 400 written declarations from drivers who say they prefer to be independent contractors because of this flexibility.

This is not the only court case Uber is battling, either, with two Uber directors in France accused of illegally handling data and misleading commercial practices earlier this summer. He denied their request to seek reimbursements for things like gas as a class-saying the four drivers might not be representing everyone’s best interest-but he also gave Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer representing the drivers, 35 days to file arguments convincing him otherwise.

Classifying its workers as employees could raise Uber’s operating expenses significantly and would go against its business model and identity.

One statement by Judge Chen in his ruling may be indicative of his view of the “gig economy”, which has also surfaced as a debatable point in the upcoming US presidential election.

Uber has stated before that its drivers want to be flexible and that employment status would change the nature of how its ride-hailing service operates.

Elsewhere, Chen bluntly dismissed Uber’s insistence that there is “no typical driver”, claiming thatthe company focused on “legally irrelevant differences” between its contractors and the plaintiffs behind the suit, and waved away the many testimonials it presented as “statistically insignificant”.

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This website is for informational purposes only. Please do not construe anything contained herein as legal advice. Each case is different depending on the facts. Most of the content on this site is based on a general application of the law that may not be applicable to your case. For the best advice, give us a call and speak with an attorney.


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