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Lynn woman wins court battle over car

By Thor Jourgensen / The Daily Item

LYNN - A Mudge Street woman who watched last November as debt-collecting constables towed away her car won a legal victory this week against the debt company and the law firm that pursued her.

Forsyth Law attorney Carl Brugnoli formally filed a motion to dismiss the firm’s case against Christine Brennan Monday in District Court.

MariElizabeth McKeon, Brennan’s attorney, said the motion was dismissed with prejudice meaning “they can’t go back after her ever again.”

Suffolk County constables towed away Brennan’s 1998 Toyota Camry last Nov. 16 after demanding she pay $1,701, including tow fees and a $600 seizure fee, as well as the credit card debt Norfolk Financial claimed Brennan owed dating back to 2004.

The seizure left Brennan without a car for five days, prompting her to take legal action in District Court with McKeon’s assistance.

Norfolk, in court documents filed by Brugnoli, claimed Brennan owed a $456.57 credit card debt and said Brennan did not respond to 19 payment demand letters sent between 2004 and June 2010. Brennan insisted in court papers and an interview that she never owed the debt. "They couldn’t prove I ever owed it," she said on Thursday.

Brennan's case was scheduled for a court hearing on Feb. 18 and McKeon has teamed up with attorney Jan Schlichtmann to represent other Lynn residents still facing debt collection efforts by Norfolk and Forsyth Law.

District Court Judge Ellen Flatley last month ordered seized vehicles returned to three residents and ordered Norfolk to hold off collecting amounts associated with their seizures.

Norfolk, in paperwork filed in District Court, said the seizures were done after the vehicle owners ignored, in most cases for years, payment demand letters for credit card debt Norfolk had acquired from credit card firms. Flatley scheduled “ability to pay” hearings for the three in District Court on Jan. 13.

Lynn woman who lost car to seizure wins day in court

By Thor Jourgensen / The Daily Item

Article reprinted with permission from

LYNN - A week after creditors banged on her apartment door to collect a debt and towed away her car, local resident Christine Brennan secured a judge's order to return her 1998 Toyota Camry.

Judge Albert Conlon's District Court decision Tuesday in Brennan's case forces debt collector Norfolk Financial Corporation to go to trial in February to collect a $400 credit card debt dating back to 2003 from Brennan.

"We'll end up negotiating with the creditor," said Brennan attorney Mari McKeon.

McKeon said Brennan will not have to pay $745 in fees associated with her car's seizure.

Norfolk acquired Brennan's debt and credit card balances owed by at least a dozen other Lynn residents six to seven years ago and hired Boston-based Forsyth Law to collect the money. The collection process resulted in constables seizing Brennan's car and other debtors' vehicles on Nov. 16 and 17.

McKeon said Conlon sided with Brennan's argument against Norfolk in part because the debt firm did not have evidence of Brennan's original debt. Court paperwork filed by Forsyth attorney Carl Brugnoli indicated Norfolk filed suit in District Court in August 2003 to collect money Brennan owed on her BankFirst Action card.

Brugnoli's filing claimed Norfolk sent Brennan 19 demand letters in an attempt to collect the debt before warning her in September she faced property seizure if the money was not paid.

Norfolk in its court filing claimed Brennan "took absolutely no action on this matter for almost seven years."

Norfolk spokesman Doug Bailey said Norfolk "is a holding company that only purchases debt and outsources the collection activities to various law firms that specialize in that practice, such as Forsyth Law." Despite Norfolk's efforts to collect its debt, McKeon said Brennan "did not have the opportunity to present an adequate defense" prior to Norfolk and Forsyth's decision to seize her vehicle. Constables also seized Francois Onaney's vehicle and the Swampscott resident convinced Conlon this week to order the car returned to him. Conlon also set a February 2011 trial date for Norfolk to make a bid to collect a debt the firm claims Onaney owes back to 2002.

Vehicle seizures associated with debt collection practices prompted state legislators, including state Rep. Lori Ehrlich and state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, to support an increase in the debt limit for vehicle seizure from $500 to $7,500. The proposal is under review in the Legislature.

Ehrlich is also cosponsoring legislation setting new debt collection standards. The requirement includes forcing debt collectors to prove a debtor signed a contract outlining what they owed on a product or account before it was placed into debt collection.

The bill also limits debt collections against people 60 years or older. The bill requires debt collectors purchasing debt owed by consumers to first obtain "substantially all of the records related to the consumer's obligation to pay the account" before debt collection efforts are started.

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