Jury Punishes Houston Debt Buyer with $25 Million Judgment

Posted on Jun 08, 2017

The State of Texas sued Houston attorney and debt buyer Joseph Onwuteaka, alleging that he sued consumers for debts in Harris County, Texas when many of them lived in other counties, in violation of state law. Few consumers appear in court when they are sued for debts, even when they are sued in their home county.

By suing consumers in a county distant from where they live or where they signed the contract, it makes it even less likely that consumers will show up in court to dispute the lawsuit, even if they have a valid defense. The jury considered violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the Identity Theft Enforcement Protection Act, and the Texas Debt Collection Act.

On June 7, 2017, after a two week trial, the jury found that Onwuteaka had violated Texas state consumer protection laws that require debt collection lawsuits against consumers to be filed in the county where the person lives or the loan documents were signed, and assessed more than $25,000,000 in civil penalties against him and the companies that he controls. The defendants were Samara Portfolio, Law Office of Jospeh Onwuteaka, and Joseph Onwuteaka individually

It's important to note that these laws protect against lawsuits being brought in a distant location for consumer debts only. If you have business debts, typically the contract or other laws determine where the lawsuit can be brought. If you have a business, its important to have your attorney review all contracts carefully before you enter into them.

One of the reasons to do so is so that you don't agree to choice of law or venue provisions that would subject your business to suit in a distant forum where it may be much more difficult to defend or the laws may be less favorable to you.

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