OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) --- A state trial judge ordered Bad Boys Bail Bonds to stop filing collections actions against co-signers on the hook for nearly $34.5 million in outstanding debt for bail bonds contracts they signed on behalf of arrested loved ones.
“Such relief is appropriate to stop an ongoing illegal practice,” Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman wrote in an order issuing a preliminary injunction on Thursday.
The news comes as a huge relief for Kiara Caldwell, who co-signed a $5,000 bail bond for a close friend who was arrested in 2018 for shoplifting.
Caldwell put down $500 and signed a contract with the bail agency, believing at the time that her friend, whom she considered a sister, would be the one ultimately responsible for paying the remaining $4,500.
But Bad Boys went after Caldwell. They called her constantly at home and at work, and tried to take her to court in 2019 for the outstanding $4,500, plus costs and fees.
“Bad Boys Bail Bonds’ unlawful deception plunged me into debt and caused me tremendous pain after I bailed out a friend. Over months, they relentlessly threatened and harassed me, my mother, and my employer, claiming I had unpaid debt,” Caldwell said in a statement Thursday. “The judge’s order is a tremendous relief for me and thousands of other Californians who have cosigned with Bad Boys.”
Seligman found Caldwell and other co-signers have a good shot at succeeding on the merits of their class action — the first of its kind — for fraudulent or unfair business practices under California’s Unfair Competition Law stemming from the bail company’s failure to provide them with notice that they would be responsible for repayment.
Seligman found no such notice had been provided to cosigners in the 150 collections actions filed in his court by Bad Boys since July 1, 2019. He also found the “balance of hardships” required for a preliminary injunction "tips decidedly towards Caldwell” since the legislature mandated notice under state civil code to protect consumers.
"Caldwell and her declarants all demonstrate how they have been victimized by the lack of notice. BBBB claims it could lose bail premiums worth millions of dollars if the statute is enforced. But it makes no showing it cannot provide the notice and comply with the statute,” he wrote, noting that the injunction won’t stop the bail agency from doing business and merely requires it to comply with California’s consumer protection laws.
“It’s an incredible step,” Caldwell’s attorney Elisa Della-Piana with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in a phone interview Thursday. “Bad Boys has been violating the law for so many decades, as have so many other bail companies, and halting more than $34 million in collections will benefit thousands of Californians.”
The order specifically applies to co-signers, though it could also benefit some arrestees if they were on the contracts, Della Piana said, adding "Our sense is that Bad Boys focuses collection on the cosigners, having identified them as people most likely to have funds."
For now the injunction is preliminary and only applies as the lawsuit is litigated, though Della-Piana called Seligman’s order “a good sign for the case."
An attorney for Bad Boys did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.Follow @MariaDinzeo
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