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Brandt v. Columbia Credit Services, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 12, 2018

COLUMBIA CREDIT SERVICES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, WALES & WOEHLER, INC., P.S., a Washington Corporation, JASON L.WOEHLER, WSBA Number 27658, and SACOR FINANCIAL, INC., a California Corporation, Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Russell Brandt's Motion for Summary Judgement against Defendants Wales & Woehler, Inc., P.S., and Jason Woehler (collectively “Woehler” or “W&W”) as to liability. Dkt. #23. Defendants oppose this Motion. Dkt. #26. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Mr. Brandt's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         In 2005, Columbia Credit Services (“CCS”), Defendant Sacor Financial, Inc. (“Sacor”)'s predecessor, obtained a judgment against Mr. Brandt in King County Superior Court, Case Number 05-2-150410-1 (hereinafter the “Collection Action.”). See Dkts. #25-1 and #25-2. In October of 2006, Mr. Brandt contacted a CCS collection agent, Justin Lane, and negotiated a final settlement. Dkt. #24 at ¶¶ 4-7; Dkt. #24-1; Dkt. #25-7 at 22. Mr. Lane faxed the settlement agreement to Mr. Brandt, and he paid the settlement amount as instructed by Mr. Lane. Id. However, no satisfaction of judgment was filed in the Collection Action.

         Despite this payment, CCS and its successors-in-interest continued to send Mr. Brandt collection letters. See, e.g., Dkt. #24 at ¶¶ 9, 11, and 13; Dkts. #24-1 at 7-15. Mr. Brandt repeatedly followed up with the collectors to show them proof he had paid. Dkt. #24 at ¶¶ 10, 12, and 14; Dkt. #25-7 at 29-30.

         Sacor purchased Mr. Brandt's account from CCS in 2012, and Defendants Wales & Woehler and specifically Jason Woehler began working for Sacor. See Dkt #25-2 at 14. Sacor's account notes show that an assignment of judgment to Sacor was needed to begin garnishment on the judgment, but that getting the assignment would delay garnishment “45-60 days.” Dkt. #25-7 at 28-29. Instead of waiting for that process to occur, Woehler filed an Assignment of Judgment to Sacor Financial (hereinafter the “Assignment of Judgment”) after just eleven days. Dkt #25-2 at 14.

         The Assignment of Judgment was not signed by a Sacor employee. It was signed by Frank G. Huguenin, who was Woehler's Rule 9 Intern. Jason Woehler notarized the Assignment of Judgment, stating:

I, Jason Woehler, Notary Public in and for the State of Washington, do hereby certify that on this day, Frank Huguenin of SACOR Financial, Inc. personally appeared before me, to me known to be the individual described in and who executed the within instrument and acknowledged that he/she signed the same as a free voluntary act and deed, with full corporate authority, for the uses and purposes herein mentioned.


         Mr. Huguenin did not work for Sacor when Jason Woehler notarized the Assignment of Judgment. Jason Woehler knew that Huguenin did not work for Sacor when he notarized the Assignment of Judgment. These facts have been admitted by Defendants through their failure to respond to Plaintiff's Requests for Admission on these topics. See Dkt. #25-9 at 22-23.

         On November 9, 2012, Woehler filed an Application for Writ of Garnishment against Bank of America in the Collection Action. Dkt. #25-3 at 1-5. That Application for Writ of Garnishment credited Mr. Brandt only $564.80 for amounts previously garnished. Id. Mr. Brandt contacted Woehler just days later and provided the firm proof that he had already paid the debt; Attorney Woehler “responded that he did not believe [Mr. Brandt] and called [him] a liar.” Dkt. #24 at 3; see also Dkt #25-7 at 29-30.[2] Sacor's own records show Mr. Brandt provided: 1) a copy of the settlement agreement signed by Mr. Lane and on CCS letterhead; 2) a copy of Mr. Brandt's notes from his call with Lane; 3) a receipt for the cashier's check he purchased to settle the debt showing that a cashier's check was purchased by Brandt and made payable to CCS 5280 in the amount of $5, 425.20; and 4) a cancelled copy of the cashier's check in the amount of $5, 425.20, showing “[p]ay to the order of: CCS 5280, ” showing the bank endorsement from the deposit, and showing the account number and bank branch the check was deposited in. See Dkt. #25-8 at 4-8. “5280” is the account number CCS assigned Brandt's account. See Dkt #25-7 at 17. Sacor's records reflect that the records were transmitted to Sacor by “Frank” on November 21, 2012 and Woehler on November 30, 2012. Id. at 29.

         Woehler did not quash the garnishment. Even after Mr. Brandt provided Woehler these documents, $190.17 was garnished from Brandt's BOA Account. Dkt. #25-3 at 7-10. Woehler filed another Application for Writ of Garnishment on November 13, 2013. Id. at 11-15.

         Woehler then filed a Motion and Order Directing Personal Appearance of Russell Brandt for Examination. Mr. Huguenin, by then a licensed Washington lawyer working for Woehler, appeared for Sacor at the hearing. Brandt appeared pro se. Dkt. #25-6 at 3-16 (Verbatim Report of Debtor Examination Proceedings held June 30, 2015).

         Mr. Brandt told the court he paid the debt in 2006. Id. at 7:11-19. Brandt provided the court with the same documents he had previously provided. Id. at 7:11-25, 8:1-4. Brandt testified under oath that he had paid the debt and spoken with Jason Woehler a couple of times on the matter. Id. at 7:11-19, 8:10-11. Mr. Huguenin stated at the hearing “[t]his is the first I've actually heard about it, ” that he had not looked at the documents submitted by Mr. Brandt, and that he had “not been informed by our client that this judgment has been paid.” Id. at 8:5- 6, 8:14-16. The court commented that looking at Brandt's information, it appeared that Sacor had been ...

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