Same Lawyer, Different Day: Lawyer Who Foreclosed on Ireland Resident had a Similar Case
The lawyer who filed a foreclosure notice on a Dallas property owned by a resident of Ballymote, Ireland without proper notification had been involved in a similar case, according to court records.
Dallas-based lawyer Timothy Pletta was involved in a lawsuit earlier this decade whereby Tarrant Restoration had performed work at an apartment complex called Arlington Oaks Apartments, located in Arlington, Texas, which at the time was owned by Tx Arlington Oaks Apartments, LTD. The apartment complex was managed by Sandalwood Management, Inc., according to court papers.
Tarrant Restoration presented employees of Sandalwood Management with two invoices, one for $240 and the second for $35. The employees signed the invoices just below the statement on the invoice, “Customer acknowledges and accepts all work and invoice(s) herein, having been performed and completed timely and in a good and workmanlike manner and conforming to all representations and warranties. Customer agrees past due amounts shall incur late charges at the rate of 1.5 percent per month or 18 percent APR.”
When the invoices were not paid, Tarrant Restoration hired Timothy Pletta to pursue collection and assigned Pletta ten percent of the claim. Pletta then filed a petition in justice court presenting causes of action for breach of contract and quantum meruit (reasonable value of services).
To serve the lawsuit, Tarrant Restoration mailed a copy of the petition with the citation to the office of the apartment complex where it performed the work. The citation and petition were received by an employee of Sandalwood Management; however, Tx Arlington Oaks Apartment’s principal place of business and its registered agent for service of process were located in Austin, Texas, and they were not served with process.
Attached to the petition mailed to Sandalwood Management was a “Notice of Assignment” stating: “The right to payment under this invoice has been transferred and assigned to the Law Office of Timothy G. Pletta for Collection. All payments hereunder and/or communications are to be directed to the assignee at the below-listed office address. Remittance for all or part to anyone other than the Law Office of Timothy G. Pletta does not constitute payment of any invoice sought to be collected. The Law office of Timothy G. Pletta must be given notification of any claims, agreements or merchandise returns which would affect the payment of all or part of this invoice not later than the due date.”
After receiving the lawsuit, Sandalwood Management’s vice president, Kelly Cooper, sent a check for $275 and a letter to Timothy Pletta, Tarrant Restoration’s attorney, stating that the correct legal entity was not served, and “We have consulted with counsel who has advised we submit payment for this invoice as an act of good will. Please accept this payment as consideration in full.”
Pletta held the check, without either cashing it or returning it. Pletta did not respond to Cooper’s letter, according to court records. On September 21, 2004, the justice court entered a default judgment against appellee for $1294.25, consisting of $275 actual damages, $19.25 prejudgment interest, and $1000 attorney’s fees. On October 6, 2004, 15 days after the default judgment was filed, Pletta negotiated the $275 check.
Also, it is noted in court records that while the lawsuit was pending, Pletta filed a grievance against Robert L. Eden, counsel for TX Arlington. “The grounds for the grievance mirror one of the defenses asserted by defendants in the present lawsuit. The court notes that the State Bar dismissed the grievance because it did not allege professional misconduct or disability. The court finds that Mr. Pletta filed the grievance in an attempt to obtain a tactical advantage in this litigation, and the filing of the grievance is probative evidence of the harassment element of rule 13.”
Pletta did not respond to requests for an interview.
As reported Monday in VNN, Justin Hunt had purchased a home in Dallas as an investment property. He owed a small landscaping bill to Hot Land Landscaping, also of Dallas, one that he had no idea he owed. A resident of Ireland, he depended on a property management company to keep the house maintained and rented.
His house was subsequently sold at a sheriff sale to the landscaping company for just over $3,000, with Pletta being the attorney for Hot Land Landscaping, according to the lis pendens filed in the Justice Court of Dallas County.
“I would have definitely paid the bill if I’d known I owed it,” Hunt said. The bill totaling $631.42 cost Hunt his $40,000 investment.
Hunt maintains that neither he nor his registered agent had received the landscaping bill nor the notice of judgment. He is unsure if the notice had been improperly served at his Dallas property.
Hunt learned about his property loss when a man named Daniel Walters of Hot Land Landscaping showed up and told contractors working there that he was the new owner. Just prior to Walter’s showing up, the tenant who had been residing at the home had quickly vacated the premises.
Texas law requires notices of foreclosure be served on the property owner or the registered agent. Neither happened in Hunt’s case and he has no idea where, if ever, the paperwork was served.
Hunt said he finds it odd that Hot Land Landscaping ended up purchasing the property at auction.
“I think it’s a scam,” he said.
(Image: Flickr | StockMonkeys.com)