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Georgia District Court Deals Blow to Involuntary Debit Card Prisoner Refunds

Robert Regan, a 67 year old arrested on a warrant in Rockdale County, Georgia, was carrying $764.00 when he was arrested.  When he finally released, instead of being given cash or a check for the money seized during the arrest, he was given no choice but to accept a  debit card. He objected to numerous fees required for him to recover his own money, but when he sued, the defendants attempted to enforce an arbitration clause to which he never assented and have his lawsuit dismissed. The Georgia District Court agreed with Regan that said clause was unenforceable, and that his lawsuit could proceed. That decision has potential ramifications for other prisoners forced to accept fee-laden debit cards at the time of their release.

The defendant Stored Value Cards argued that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) should be applied, said Act requiring Regan to submit to arbitration in lieu of a lawsuit, noting that he had received written notification of the fees in a Cardholder Agreement included in his release papers. Regan establish, however, that he had never signed any agreement assenting to the debit card fees.

The district court in its decision noted that "it is undisputed that the party seeking to avoid arbitration has not signed any contract requiring arbitration and is challenging the very existence of any agreement, including the existence of an agreement, including the existence of an agreement to arbitrate… there is no presumptively valid contract which would trigger the district court's duty to compel arbitration pursuant to the Act."

 As stated in the court's order, "the circumstances surrounding the receipt of the Card and Cardholder Agreement, the absence of Plaintiff's signature (at least on the Cardholder Agreement), the language on the back of the Card and in the Cardholder Agreement, and Plaintiff's actions throughout do not permit the Court to decide, as a matter of law, that a reasonable person in Defendants' position would ascribe to Plaintiff's actions acceptance or, perhaps later ratification of the Cardholder Agreement." See: Regan v. Stored Value Cards, 14cv1187, U.S, District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, January 13, 2015.

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Related legal case

Regan v. Stored Value Cards