The Bairs Foundation was created to be a fair and low-cost way for plaintiffs to get financial support while going through a lawsuit. The founders, John and Amy Bair, noticed that in an industry full of for-profit lending companies, families in need had no alternatives. One of the ore well known of these for-profit companies who target people going through litigation and in desperation is Oasis.As of just the other week, two Missouri residents have filed a lawsuit against Oasis Legal Finance Operating Co., claiming that the litigation finance company charged an exorbitant annual percentage rate (APR) of more than 100 percent.
Plaintiff Ronald Wright was injured in an accident in 2016 and hired an attorney. Facing issues paying off his debts, he signed a loan agreement and promissory note (LAPN) with Oasis for a principal amount of $1,100. Similarly, plaintiff Jeremy Smith was injured in an accident in 2015 and also retained an attorney. He signed two LAPNs with Oasis for $1,075 and $2,100.
The plaintiffs made four claims in their complaint:
- Per se violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA): The company’s practices are inherently violating the Act.
- Unjust enrichment: Oasis benefitted at the expense of the plaintiffs in a way that is unjust.
- Usury: The illegal act of lending money at an unreasonably high interest rate.
- Constructive trust: Meant to make up for the wrongs the company has committed.
The lawsuit points out that an APR over 100 percent is “unconscionable, unfair and otherwise illegal,” as is the way Oasis explains the APR in its loan agreement and promissory note. The complaint argues that these and other provisions make Oasis’s agreement with the plaintiffs invalid under Missouri law. The lawsuit seeks class action status as well as double damages and punitive damages.
Similar lawsuits have been filed in Georgia and Florida, which resulted in wins for the finance company defendants. Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in Ruth v. Cherokee Funding that the agreements are not traditional loans and therefore not subject to laws regarding interest rates.
Beyond what gets decides in court with respect to what laws these companies are subject to, it is more about showing compassion towards humanity. For-profit lending companies like Oasis care more about their bottom line than about helping people who are struggling to make ends meet. The plaintiff-funding industry needs to take a look at the way it operates and needs to shift their focus from profit to people.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).