Ruth v. Cherokee Funding, LLCAnnotate this Case
In Cherokee Funding v. Ruth, 802 SE2d 865 (2017), the Georgia Court of Appeals decided that neither the Industrial Loan Act, nor the Payday Lending Act, applied to certain transactions in which a financing company provides funds to a plaintiff in a pending personal-injury lawsuit, the plaintiff is obligated to repay the funds with interest only if his lawsuit is successful, and his obligation to repay is limited to the extent of the damages that he recovers in the lawsuit. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the decision in Cherokee Funding. Ronald Ruth and Kimberly Oglesby sustained injuries in automobile accidents, and they retained attorney Michael Hostilo to represent them in connection with lawsuits to recover damages for their injuries. While their lawsuits were pending, Ruth and Oglesby obtained funds from Cherokee Funding pursuant to financing agreements that Hostilo signed on their behalf. Cherokee Funding would provide funds to Ruth and Oglesby for personal expenses, and for the most part, their obligation to repay those funds was contingent upon the success of their lawsuits. If they recovered nothing, they would have no obligation to repay. If they recovered damages, however, they would be required to repay the amounts that Cherokee Funding had provided, as well as interest at a rate of 4.99 percent per month and various other “fees,” up to the amount of their recovery. In no event would they be required to pay Cherokee Funding any amounts in excess of their lawsuit recovery. In fact, Ruth and Oglesby would not have been in default under the financing agreements if they dismissed their underlying lawsuits and kept the money they received from Cherokee Funding. Cherokee Funding provided $5,550 to Ruth in several small installments between April 2012 and June 2013. Ruth settled his case for an unspecified amount; Cherokee Funding sought to recover more than $84,000 from Ruth pursuant to the terms of his agreement. Similarly, Oglesby settled her lawsuit for an unspecified amount, and money was deducted from her settlement proceeds to repay Cherokee Funding. The two then sued Cherokee Funding seeking relief for themselves and a putative class of similarly situated people to whom Cherokee Funding provided funds under agreements facilitated by Hostilo. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s determination that the Payday Lending Act nor the Industrial Loan act applied in this case.