Professional Troublemaker ®

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Attorney



Flash Factory Pays $10K to Settle Groping Lawsuit

Flash Factory SettlementGoing out on a Friday night shouldn’t involve having a security guard grab you between your legs “for your safety.”  And when nightlife security does it without obtaining the informed consent of each patron before the search, it’s sexual assault.

Now-defunct New York City nightclub Flash Factory learned this lesson the hard way as it agrees to pay out a $10,000 legal settlement to civil rights advocate and yours truly Jonathan Corbett, and co-plaintiff Elise Domyan, on top of a $50,000 default judgment already levied against its security contractor Ward Security Inc., owned by Walter Degolyer of Lake Grove, N.Y.  A motion is pending before New York County Supreme Court to hold Mr. Degolyer personally liable in the 2017 lawsuit.

Ms. Domyan relayed the following to me in response to the case closure:

“Sexual assault happens every day, and it is quite common for survivors to feel like they don’t have any recourse or a chance for justice.  I know that one lawsuit won’t change the world, but maybe it will give nightclub owners and security firms a moment’s pause in the future, or encourage other survivors to pursue legal action against their attackers.”

The settlement and judgment indeed offer strong incentive for bars and clubs to respect the physical autonomy of their patrons.  Hiring an independent security company does not absolve the establishment of liabilitynot in the Court of Yelp, and not in a court of law.  It is unclear why Flash Factory owners Michael Satsky and Brian Gefter closed, and then sold, their establishment late last year, but having a 2 out of 5 rating due to abusive staff, absurd lines for pre-paid ticket-holders, and $18 drinks, probably didn’t help.

As for Ward Security and Mr. Degolyer, who also go by Alpha 1 Security Group, Inc. and “AAA Security,” so far we’ve collected $10,000 from their surety bond, which New York requires from all security companies, and we work to collect the remaining balance through a variety of means available.  (If I were Mr. Degolyer, I’d be getting in touch to work out a settlement of the matter ASAP.)

OT: Credit Cards, Interest Rates, and Unconscionable Contract Terms of @Citi

fuck youProbably few of you know that before I went after abusive government agencies, I used to go after abusive financial companies — my first federal lawsuit was against a collection agency who called non-stop about a bill that I didn’t owe. It’s actually shockingly simple to sue a collection agency since there are pages upon pages of rules they have to follow, and it’s way cheaper for them to deal with the occasional lawsuit than to follow the rules.

I had a credit card with Citi that I was paying off over time until a few months ago, when my automatic payment didn’t go through. No problem, just send another payment, maybe pay a $30 late fee, whatever, right? Of course not. Because of the missed payment, Citi tells me that I now owe them a “penalty APR” of 29.99%, which can’t be reduced even after making up the payment.

Let me put this in perspective for you. Let’s say you owe $5,000. A typical credit card company will ask you to pay, give or take, 3% of your balance or $25, whichever is greater, per month. This would result in a monthly payment of $150. However, in that month, you will have accrued $124.96 in interest, meaning that after paying your $150, your balance owed will go down by only $25.04. Your debt will take you over 6 years to pay and over those 6 years you’ll have paid about $5,800 in interest — more than the amount you borrowed!

This is what is referred to as an “unconscionable contract term” — a part of a contract that is so absurd that no judge will enforce it. And, in fact, some judges have chosen not to enfoce Citi’s usurious interest rates. This common-law concept comes paired with the fact that contracts are supposed to represent a negotiation between the two parties that are signing the contract — but fat chance you can negotiate your credit card terms of service, and so judges therefore must be ever vigilant against the large companies taking advantage of the little guys.

So when Citi collection reps call me and tell me, “Well you agreed to the penalty APR when you signed your cardmember agreement, didn’t you?” I explain the unenforcability of this agreement to them until they get frustrated with me and hang up. I’ve offered them the money in exchange for returning my interest rate back to where it belongs, and they’ve declined. So now I offer them this: come after me for the debt in court, and let’s see what kind of precident we can create regarding unconscionable contract terms and credit card interest rates.

I won’t be taken advantage of by a bank, and I urge you not to be taken advantage of as well. The best way is to never borrow money, but for must of us it’s too late for that, so the next best is to know your rights and refuse to bend over.

[Author Note: Trying something new with the title here. Often times, people tweet my blog entries, and I’m hoping by putting the @Citi that Citi will be bombarded with copies of this post. If you’d like to participate in my experiment, share this on Twitter!]

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