If as a business, you buy defaulted debt for pennies on the dollar and then make your living by suing Texas consumers, you should follow the law in doing so. If you don't, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought by the State of Texas. 

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 whether Onwuteaka and his companies violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the Identity Theft Enforcement Protection Act, and the Texas Debt Collection Act.

After a two week trial, on June 7, 2017 the jury found that Onwuteaka 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. 

Do you think the jury reached the correct decision? Do you think these laws are good, to only allow consumers to be sued where they live or where they entered into the contract? Please leave your comments or questions below.

J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
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