by Matt Clarke
In September 20, 2019, an Ohio federal court granted preliminary approval of a settlement in a class action lawsuit against Stored Value Cards, Inc., doing business as Numi Financial, and Republic Bank & Trust over jails using their high-fee debit cards to return prisoners’ funds upon release from jail.
The settlement is for up to $550,000, including up to $250,000 in attorney fees and costs, and up to $15,000 as an incentive award to the named plaintiff. There are an estimated 180,000 class members.
Class attorneys Matthew A. Dooley, Ryan M. Gembala, and Stephen M. Bosak of Sheffield Village, Ohio, assisted former Lorrain County jail prisoner Amber Humphrey in filing a class-action lawsuit against the defendants over prisoners released from jails being given activated “Numi Financial” debit cards containing the funds from their prisoner trust funds without their having agreed to the terms of the cards, or having been given information on account terms, fees, and charges, and without having signed any agreement or contract.
The complaint alleged the defendants charged excessively high ATM fees, account maintenance charges, and transaction fees. For instance, the defendants could charge a $2.50 weekly service fee, a $0.95 fee for each declined transaction, and a fee of up to $2.95 for each transaction made with a Numi Financial debit card.
The lawsuit alleged defendants’ action violated the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), 15 U.S.C. § 1693, et seq., and constituted Ohio state torts of conversion and unjust enrichment. The court certified three classes: 1) the EFTA class, which consists of all persons in the U.S. who were taken into custody at a jail, correctional facility, or any other law enforcement facility, and upon release were issued a pre-activated debit card by defendants to access a bank account containing any funds remaining in their trust fund account within one year prior to the filing of the original Complaint in this action and during its pendency; 2) the Ohio Conversion class; and 3) the Ohio Unjust Enrichment class, which have similar definitions, but are limited to persons taken into custody in Ohio from whose accounts defendants deducted any fees within four years prior to the filing of the original complaint for the Ohio Conversion class and within six years for the Ohio Unjust Enrichment class. According to court documents, the original complaint was filed on April 3, 2018.
Any person released from custody and issued a Numi Financial debit card for their trust fund balance who is within the class parameters must submit a claim form, which is available at www.numicardsettlement.com.
A valid claim entitles the claimant to a pro-rata portion of the settlement fund after class administration costs, Humphrey’s service award, and attorney fees and costs are subtracted.
Because the class size is estimated to be 180,000, this leaves only about $1.50 per potential class member in the settlement fund, it is highly unlikely that a large percentage of the class members will make a settlement claim, leaving a larger amount for those who make a claim. This appears to be a poor outcome for the plaintiff class.
Further, the power of this type of class-action lawsuit is in making the defendants stop exploiting the poor. That is why the Human Rights Defense Center, which publishes PLN, has several similar cases pending. See: Humphrey v. Stored Value Cards, U.S.N.C. (E.D. Ohio), Case No. l:18-CV-01050-JG. The court later issued a final settlement of the class claims at Humphrey v. Stored Value Cards, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5539.
When all was said and done, 1,771 class members filed timely claims in the case and five filed untimely claims.
If you have been victimized by a prison or jail debit card and wish to challenge the practice, please contact HRDC at P.O. Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460. Tel. (561) 360-2523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional source: classactionreporter.com
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Related legal case
Humphrey v. Stored Value Cards
|Cite||2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3361|