Alabama plaintiffs attorney’s case against legal support company over alleged debt moved to federal court

By Jessica Karmasek | Sep 23, 2015


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - An Alabama plaintiffs attorney is suing one of the largest full service legal support companies, alleging the company is demanding payment but has no valid contract and has cut off his only means of financing his cases.

In August, plaintiff Barry W. Walker, doing business as Walker Law LLC, filed a declaratory judgment action against defendants Minnesota-based Civil Action Group Ltd. and Civil Action Finance LLC in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Walker’s law firm, located in Birmingham, focuses on wrongful death lawsuits, business litigation, complex civil litigation and medical malpractice lawsuits.

Walker asked the state court to order the Alabama Secretary of State remove the defendants’ filed UCC, securing debts owed by the plaintiff.

A UCC, or Uniform Commercial Code financing statement, is a legal form that a creditor files to give notice that it has or may have an interest in the personal property of a debtor.

“The Defendants effectively injured Plaintiff by cutting off his line of credit in midstream while he was litigating cases in which they contended they had a security interest,” Walker wrote in his seven-page declaratory judgment filing.

“Defendants actions robbed the Plaintiff of his ability to effectively litigate these cases while at the same time demanding payment knowing that their actions made successful litigation of these cases remote at best.”

Walker entered into a contract with Civil Action Group for services and financial support regarding his legal practice in 2008.

Among the services the company provides are: national service of process, international service of process, language and translation services, medical records retrieval, surveillance, depositions and court reporting, e-discovery and computer forensics, and finance and legal support.

Walker argues in his state court filing that the 2008 contract was voidable because the terms of the contract were never completely “performed nor observed” by either party.

“For example, the credit limit of the 2008 contract was for $100,000, and neither party noted in writing nor otherwise when the debt at issue exceeded $100,000,” the plaintiffs attorney wrote.

Civil Action Group is claiming a debt of at least $455,000, with interest accruing and compounding daily.

Walker “vigorously disputes” the amount of the debt, and questions the company’s business practices and the accuracy of its accounting.

Walker contends that he attempted to “work the matter out” with the defendants, but that the company terminated the 2008 contract in March 2014.

The company then started a collection effort against him, consisting of “incessant” emails and calls, requesting “unrealistic” updates and explanations that Walker says he could not provide given he was and is engaged in an active law practice.

Walker also contends that Civil Action Group asked him to execute another contract in late June 2014. A representative for the company explained to him that the contract was needed “on an urgent basis” in anticipation of a meeting of its loan committee -- without respect to whether the contract had been reviewed or not.

“The clear import of the conversation was that if the contract was not executed, legal action would be imminent and no further credit could be extended,” Walker wrote. “Unfortunately, the Defendants never intended to honor the terms of the 2014 contract.

“The credit limit of the 2014 contract was for $500,000, but the Defendants never extended credit to the Plaintiff after the 2014 contract was executed. Even more telling, after the contract was entered into on July 1, 2014, the Defendants, in breach of the terms of the contract, immediately terminated the contract on July 31, 2014, on the grounds that the Plaintiffs were refusing to cooperate.”

The company, he contends, entered the 2014 contract without any intent to perform on it, but rather only to file a UCC.

But the contract was already terminated in actual fact and practice, Walker argues, because no services had been provided to him after March 2014.

Even assuming there was a contract, the company has committed “classic” promissory fraud, he alleges.

“The 2014 contract was illusory, and the Defendants never intended to perform pursuant to the terms of the contract,” Walker wrote. “Therefore, the 2014 contract was void at its execution and the arbitration clause was and is likewise void.”

The UCC also is invalid, Walker argues, as it does not properly identify what the collateral at issue “truly is with more specificity.”

Civil Action Group, in response to Walker’s declaratory judgment action, filed a notice of removal to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division, Sept. 17.

Attorneys for the company argue that if the plaintiff succeeds in having the UCC removed, the harm to it will greatly exceed $75,000 -- a jurisdictional minimum.

Joe A. Joseph and James H. Haithcock III are representing Civil Action Group in the matter.

According to the federal court docket, Magistrate Judge Charles Coody is presiding over the case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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