Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Elderly Woman Can Sue Law Firm for Unfair Debt Collection

An 85-year-old New Jersey woman who missed her final mortgage payment because she was hospitalized can sue a law firm for unlawful debt collection, even though the law firm contacted her lawyer about the debt and did not contact her directly, a federal court has ruled.
Dorothy Rhue Allen missed her final mortgage payment of $432 on the house she had owned since 1976 because she was in the hospital. The mortgage company began foreclosure proceedings against Ms. Allen through a law firm. When Ms. Allen's lawyer asked how much she would have to pay to resolve the problem, the bank and law firm told her the total charges would be $5,797, including nearly $2,400 in legal fees.
Ms. Allen sued in federal court, alleging these charges were much higher than allowed under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. A district court judge dismissed the case, finding that the charges were not covered by consumer protection law because they were sent to Ms. Allen's lawyers. However, a federal appeals court found that the communication to Ms. Allen's attorney was an indirect communication to Ms. Allen and sent the case back to the district court to revisit. Other appeals courts have been divided on this question.
Ms. Allen's attorney, Lewis Adler, who has described his client as "just a wonderful little old lady that got sick," has asked the court to certify the case as a class action, alleging that what happened to Ms. Allen is part of a pattern of systemic abuses by lenders handling foreclosures during the recent real estate bust.
For an article on the case from the Washington Post, click here.
To read the full text of the decision, click here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Proposed Chinese Law Would Require Adult Children to Visit Elderly Parents Regularly

Adult children in China would be required to visit their elderly parents on a regular basis under a proposed amendment to the nation's Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged.
Wu Ming, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, is reported as saying that the amendment would allow elderly parents ignored by their children to go to court to claim their legal rights to be physically and mentally cared for.

China has 167 million citizens over age 60, half of whom live alone without children and 20 million of whom cannot take care of themselves. In traditional Chinese culture, filial piety -- respect for one's parents and ancestors -- is one of the paramount virtues. But the longstanding tradition of children caring for aged parents is being challenged by history's largest human migration, in which 130 million Chinese have moved to cities in search of jobs, leaving nearly 60 million growing up apart from one or both parents, according to a recent article in the New Yorker. In effect, capitalism appears to be undermining traditional values, and the state's attempted solution is to legislate morality.

Wang Shichuan, a news analyst quoted by the site CriEnglish.com, questioned whether a moral issue is susceptible to a legal solution. Wang noted that many adult children work outside their hometowns and have little opportunity to visit their parents due to all-consuming jobs and few days off.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs is set to submit the proposed amendment to the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council in the near future, according to the news site Global Times.