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Towson law firm sued over debt collection practices

Towson law firm sued over debt collection practices

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A Towson law firm is being sued over alleged violations of consumer protection laws by a woman who claims the firm attempted to collect a judgment on a debt she owed by garnishing her wages using an illegal post-judgment interest rate.

Blibaum & Associates P.A. informed Bryione K. Moore that it would be collecting post-judgment interest of 10 percent, even though under state law a 6 percent annual interest rate applies on money judgments for residential rent, according to Moore’s complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

“As a result of the Defendant’s acts, the Plaintiff suffered from emotional distress, stress, anger and frustration,” the complaint states. “The Plaintiff is a single mother who lives on a very limited income, and she is barely able to make ends meet. Any amount paid above and beyond what the Defendant can legally collect negatively affects the livelihood of the Plaintiff and her son.”

Gary Blibaum, a partner at Blibaum & Associates, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit on Wednesday.

Moore was sued in 2012 by Peak Management LLC, a Baltimore-area property management company, which alleged she owed more than $3,600 in rent. The lawsuit claimed Moore and Keona Pompey, who also occupied the property, additionally owed $600 in pre-judgment interest and $541 in attorney’s fees.

An affidavit judgment was entered against Moore in 2013, according to the suit. On June 23, 2016, Blibaum & Associates served a request for garnishment of Moore’s wages on the state Central Payroll Bureau, which began garnishing her wages at a rate of $150 per month plus a $2 wage garnishment fee deducted from each biweekly paycheck, the lawsuit states. (The Central Payroll Bureau oversees wages for all state employees; the lawsuit does not specific where Moore works.)

The firm mailed Moore a “judgment creditor’s monthly report” that provided her with a record of the $150 that had been garnished, the suit states. In the report, however, the firm stated that it was collecting 10 percent post-judgment interest and that the $150 it collected would be applied to reduce the amount of pre- and post-judgment interest that had accrued.

In September, Moore requested that Blibaum & Associates verify the amounts it claimed she owed and provide a legal basis for charging 10 percent interest rather than 6 percent. The firm did not respond, according to the lawsuit.

As of Oct. 19, the firm had garnished $600 from Moore’s paychecks and caused $16 in wage garnishment fees to be deducted from her pay, the suit states.

The lawsuit alleges the firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits false or misleading representations regarding debt collections, as well as the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. Moore seeks $15,000 in actual damages and $1,000 in statutory damages.

E. David Hoskins, a Baltimore attorney representing Moore, did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit on Wednesday.

The case is Bryione K. Moore v. Blibaum & Associates P.A., 1:16-cv-03546-JFM.

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