Yesterday, the California Court of Appeal upheld a decision to halt Bad Boys Bail Bonds’ debt collection efforts on $38 million dollars of contracts, affirming that the bail bond industry must follow consumer protection laws. This historic class action lawsuit on behalf of cosigners to bail contracts is one of the first to challenge a commercial bail bond company for violating consumer protection laws. Today’s decision sets a precedent for the application of such laws in the bail industry nationwide.
“Today’s decision is a devastating blow to the bail industry. The court confirmed that it is absolutely illegal for bail companies to violate consumer protection laws. This case is proof that the bail industry is abusing and exploiting vulnerable California families,” said Elisa Della-Piana, Legal Director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “We anticipate that the impact of this decision will ripple across California — any bail company violating consumer laws should be ready for a lawsuit.”
The court ruled that Bad Boys could not “deprive…cosigners…of the protections the consumer credit laws were designed to address.” Further, the court stated Bad Boys “
‘is prohibited from taking any new actions that would expose defaulting cosigners to particularly severe forms of irreparable harm — wage garnishments, credit injury, the imposition of judgment liens, or the seizure of securities.”
“This decision is a victory for the thousands of Californians lied to, cheated, and harassed by Bad Boys Bail Bonds. For far too long, the commercial bail industry has operated like it’s above the law. Businesses like Bad Boys have made millions tricking well-meaning people into huge amounts of debt, then using illegal means to collect. That ends now,” said Niall Mackay Roberts, an associate with Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP.
The lawsuit was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and Keker, Van Nest and Peters LLP.
Since 2017, Bad Boys has issued over 18,000 bail bond contracts, with the outstanding debt on those contracts totaling nearly $38 million. This decision upholds Bad Boys from filing legal actions or engaging in any other debt collection efforts against people duped into cosigning Bad Boys’ bail agreements.
Bad Boys has used illegal means to extract huge sums of money from low-income families on the false promise of helping get their loved ones released from jail for only a small fee. These family members sign credit bail agreements that hold them responsible for the entire bail amount owed—without the mandatory cosigner disclosures required under California law. Cosigners later find themselves saddled with thousands of dollars in bail debt that Bad Boys did not provide them proper notice about.
Plaintiff Kiara Caldwell cosigned what she believed to be a $500 bail bond payment for her friend during a rushed, misleading 15-minute meeting with the company. Bad Boys then charged her $4,500, threatened her job and hounded her family, and sued her. Co-Complainant Donzahniya Pitre cosigned and paid $600 towards a bail bond for her cognitively impaired brother after Bad Boys told her that she would not be responsible for any subsequent payments. Months later, Bad Boys began harassing her for payment and subjecting her to menacing calls, multiple times each week.
Bad Boys violated California consumer law by failing to inform Ms. Caldwell, Ms. Pitre, and others in their position about the true nature of their contracts, and has violated regulations specifically meant to provide transparency in commercial bail bond transactions.
The class action lawsuit demands that Bad Boys rectify its illegal practices, stop violating consumer protection laws, and provide full restitution and relief to Ms. Caldwell, Ms. Pitre, and all other cosigners in California saddled with illegal debt from the company.
The appellate court decision can be viewed here.
The preliminary injunction can be viewed here.
The class action cross-complaint can be viewed here.