Real Success Stories From Grant Recipients Made Possible by IOLTA Grant Funds


The following stories are from the Legal Aid of Western Missouri
:

William
William is in his late sixties and lives with his mother, who is in her late eighties. When William retired from the railroad, he bought a house.  The purchase was financed by an 80/20 first and second mortgage, with very high adjustable rates, and as the payments went up, William could no longer afford the payments and faced foreclosure.

A Legal Aid of Western Missouri attorney reviewed William’s loan documents and found he was charged illegal fees in connection with the second mortgage, and filed suit. The defendant agreed to pay William $10,000, and to not oppose the bankruptcy court's elimination of the second mortgage. With regard to the first mortgage, Legal Aid is negotiating with William's lender to obtain a lower, fixed rate. With the first mortgage fixed at an affordable payment, the second mortgage eliminated, and $10,000 cash in hand, William and his mother are likely to enjoy many more years in their home.

Andy
Andy is an 84 year old World War II veteran with a service-connected disability. He receives food stamps, but the Family Support Division determined he earned too much to maintain the allotment.  The Division treated an increase in his Veteran’s Pension due to reimbursement for his out-of-pocket medical expenses as “income” and, therefore, includable in his food stamp budget. Although the applicable federal regulations and the Income Maintenance Manual clearly exclude medical expense reimbursement from “income,” the agency persisted in its position because the Veteran’s Administration included the reimbursement in the same check with his pension benefit, terming the total amount “pension benefits.” Legal Aid appealed the agency determination to the Circuit Court of Lafayette County, briefed the case, and argued it to the court. The court decided five minutes into the argument that the agency’s position was in error, and reversed the agency decision, ordering full back benefits be paid within forty days

Wanda
Wanda requested Legal Aid of Western Missouri representation to fight a custody petition initiated by her son’s father, Carl. Carl had a disturbing history of violence. In one incident, he slashed Wanda’s hand with a knife in front of their 6-month old son and threatened to get his shotgun. Police eventually subdued Carl, but only after he assaulted an officer and threatened others with his shotgun

A Legal Aid attorney filed an Answer and Counter-Petition on Wanda’s behalf. At the attorney’s request, Carl was ordered to obtain a psychological evaluation, which diagnosed Carl with Bipolar Disorder. Based upon the evaluation and recommendations from the Guardian Ad Litem representing the child’s interest in the case, Carl consented to Wanda retaining full custody and Carl having only supervised visits. Carl also agreed to pay child support of $477 per month.

The following stories are from Legal Services of Southern Missouri:

Susan
For over 14 years, Susan’s husband delivered severe physical abuse and psychological torment to Susan and their children. Often, the children could not walk after the beatings. Susan decided to risk leaving with the kids even though her husband threatened to kill her if she ever left. With the assistance of Legal Services of Southern Missouri, Susan obtained an order of protection and is now living with her children independently, safely, and no longer in fear.

Melanie
Due to extenuating financial circumstances, Melanie fell behind on her rent payments and was facing life on the streets with her two children. Melanie was referred to Legal Services of Southern Missouri and a legal aid attorney intervened to negotiate a repayment plan between Melanie and the landlord. She paid the outstanding rent payments in full and successfully avoided homelessness.

Paul
Joe contacted Legal Services of Southern Missouri after a referral from a local nursing home facility. His uncle, Paul, was in poor health from years of neglect and was admitted to the nursing home for respite care. Paul, a 79 year old man, spent years living back and forth between his daughter and son. He was forced to eat meals still frozen and most of his basic needs were ignored. Although Paul received a social security check, he never had access to the funds. Paul’s daughter, son, and daughter-in-law all frightened him and had power of attorney over his affairs. In addition to many health issues created by the abuse, Paul was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, partly as a result of his treatment by his children.

Legal Services accepted the elder abuse case and advanced Paul's wishes to revoke the existing power of attorney and grant his nephew, Joe, a new power of attorney. Legal Services also obtained orders of protection keeping his daughter, son, and daughter-in-law from harassing and abusing their father. Upon closing the case, Legal Services contacted law enforcement at Paul's request and helped him file a police report on elder abuse. Thanks to the good work of Legal Services, Paul is now safe and is most excited about the $30 per month he receives after his expenses are paid.

The following stories are fropm Mid-Missouri Legal Services Corp:

Emma
Emma suffered severe physical abuse by her alcoholic husband for several years. Although her husband did not physically abuse their two adolescent daughters, the girls were terrified of their father because they witnessed the beatings on multiple occasions. After a particularly violent episode when Emma’s husband said he was going to kill her, she contacted MMLSC for help.

MMLSC first obtained orders of protection against Emma’s husband on behalf of Emma and her children. It then represented her in a divorce and child custody action. The Court granted Emma sole legal and physical custody of the children, ordered the children’s father to pay child support, and further ordered that he have no visitation with them unless they initiated it, further stating that the children could choose to have no contact with him whatsoever.

Edward
Following the death of his wife, Edward, age 73, received a bill from a company claiming his wife owed more than $3,000 in credit card charges. The creditor stated Edward was responsible for the charges made by his late wife because they were married. MMLSC investigated the claim and determined that the creditor purchased the debt from another company. The creditor was not able to prove that it owned the debt, and it lacked any documentation to establish that any credit card charges had been made by Edward’s wife. MMLSC convinced the credit card company to dismiss the case, and Edward did not have to pay the creditor any money.

Sharon
Sharon was abused physically by her husband for many years. In 2008, when the couple experienced financial hardship, Sharon’s husband held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she did not borrow $5,000 from her parents. Fearing for her life, Sharon got the money from her parents. When she gave it to her husband, she told him that the money was a loan and would have to be repaid. Sharon’s husband became violent and she tried to escape by locking herself in a bathroom, but he knocked down the door and beat her severely.  Sharon sought help from MMLSC. It represented her in obtaining an order of protection against her husband and also subsequently represented her in a divorce action against him. Sharon’s safety was secured and she was able to continue living in her community.

Jenny
Jenny signed a lease for an apartment and paid a security deposit, but when she arrived at the apartment on moving day the apartment was occupied by another tenant. Jenny had to stay in a hotel and store her possessions until she could locate another apartment. The landlord refused to return her security deposit or to pay the hotel and storage costs that she incurred when it violated the lease terms. Jenny tried to recover her costs by representing herself, but she filed her case in the wrong county and in the wrong court. She asked MMLSC to assist her, and it filed a case in the Associate Division in the correct county and was successful in recovering most of Jenny’s funds.

The following stories are from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri:

Mr. M.
Mr. M. purchased a hearing aid for $2,590.00 and paid $200.00 down. The hearing aid was not properly fitted and did not work well. Under the contract, he had 90 days to return the product without forfeiting his $200.00 deposit. He took the hearing aid in to the center’s office shortly before the 90-day return policy was up; the center refused to accept the return of the hearing aid without an appointment and all appointment dates were outside of the 90 day window. Mr. M. subsequently returned the hearing aid and refused to make payment. The hearing center refused to refund his $200.00 and sued him claiming he owed the full contract amount.

LSEM filed an Answer to the hearing center’s claim and filed an Affirmative Defense and Counterclaims for Unlawful Merchandising Practices and Breach of Contract on behalf of Mr. M. The case eventually settled with all parties dismissing their claims. The hearing center had to pay its own costs and fees, and paid Mr. M. a full refund of the $200.00 deposit he paid for the hearing aids.

Ms. K.
Ms. K., a 37-year-old woman with a 13-year-old child, had her car repossessed by an auto dealer without notice of the default on the debt or the right to cure it. The car was repossessed an hour before Ms. K. was supposed to pick up her son at the Special School District. She suffered emotional distress in trying to find transportation to get her son who was waiting outside the school in the cold weather. Ms. K. got her car back three days later when she caught up on her payments.

LSEM filed a petition for conversion and asked for punitive and emotional distress damages on behalf of Ms. K. The defendant in the case agreed to settle the matter by releasing our client from the $3,800 still owed on the car, and title was delivered to Ms. K. without the dealer’s lien.

Good news
A client wrote her attorney to let him know that she was graduating cum laude from a local junior college with an Associate of Arts degree and she received a scholarship to continue her education at a four-year college.

The client came to LSEM for help in 2006 because her husband was being very abusive. Through its holistic approach to providing assistance to victims of domestic violence, staff in our Lasting Solutions Program assisted the client with obtaining a protective order, securing a divorce and providing a social worker to access necessary resources to remove herself from the cycle of violence. The services provided by LSEM helped this client turn her life around. In August of 2007, she told her story at a fundraising event for the Lasting Solutions Program and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) featured her story in a publication that is sent to all local LSC-funded programs around the country.

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