Sometimes it takes a very fancy attorney to take on a law firm. Sometimes it doesn't.
Johnson, Rodenberg & Lauinger -- a North Dakota law firm -- files lots of debt collection lawsuits. For example, in Montana, the firm files an average of five a day. One of these Montana suits was against Tim McCollough, a former school custodian. McCollugh opened a credit card with Chemical Bank (which was later purchased by Chase) and fell behind in his payments, ultimately resulting in a charge-off of $3,000.
So the debt gets sold (per se usual) by "Collect America" -- nice name -- which is now known as SquareTwo Financial. Which hires the law firm to collect.
Most of the firm's lawsuits result in default judgments. Which is why it's a pretty productive practice. Perhaps for that reason, the law firm doesn't just sue for $3,000. But instead sues for almost $10,000, which includes the account balance, interest, attorney's fees, etc.
But this one doesn't end in a default. Barely. McCollough files a "response" to the lawsuit, pro se, that says: "FORGIVE MY SPELLING I HAVE A HEAD INJURY AND WRITING DOSE NOT COME EASY
(1) THE STACUT OF LIMITACION’S IS UP, I HAVE NOT HAD ANY DEALINGS WITH ANY CREDITED CARD IN WELL OVER 8½ YEARS (2) I AM DISABLED I GET 736.00 A MONTH
S.S.I. . . ." You get the point. Not exactly the greatest answer in the universe.
But guess what? That does the trick. Because, indeed, the stacut of limitacions -- or something like that -- has indeed expired. As a result, not only is the law firm eventually forced to dismiss the lawsuit (with prejudice), but McCollough sues 'em, and obtains statutory damages of $1000, $60,000 in punitive damages, and $250,000 in damages for emotional distress. As well as costs, attorney's fees, etc. A judgment the Ninth Circuit affirms.
Admittedly, McCollough isn't able to do this entirely on his own -- had he stayed with all-caps pleadings and the like, instead of getting a lawyer, I'm entirely confident the result would have been the exact opposite of what it turned out to be. So lawyers are important; indeed, critical.
But it all started with that first response. Without which this would be yet another successful debt collection case by a law firm.