Carter-Jones Collection Service, Inc. v. Ingersoll, Klamath County Case No. 20CV13195

Medford attorney Matthew Sutton recently defended consumer Jay Ingersoll at a three-day jury trial in Klamath County Circuit Court against medical debt collection agency Carter Jones.  Ingersoll had a low income and was eligible for financial assistance when health problems forced him into Sky Lakes Medical Center in 2019 to 2021.  Sky Lakes is a non-profit hospital that receives state and federal funds.  Nonetheless, Sky Lakes made $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 dollars in profit each of those years.  Sky Lakes’ witnesses admitted at trial that it was required to use those profits to provide a public benefit, specifically including providing financial assistance to eligible patients.  But Mr. Ingersoll fell through several glaring cracks in Sky Lakes’ financial assistance programs and ended up in collections over $14,000 in charges.

Mr. Ingersoll was uninsured, which Sky Lakes calls “self-pay.”  Given that everyone else pays far below the hospital’s list prices—Sky Lakes’ financial services director testified that nobody pays them—it offers an “automatic” 25% discount to self-pay patients.  The discount was only automatic, however, if the self-pay patient called and requested it.  But Sky Lakes did not tell patients about the 25% self-pay discount so, like Ingersoll, they didn’t know to call and ask for it.  By the time of trial, Sky Lakes purported to have corrected this policy and now applies the 25% discount as soon as it learns a patient is uninsured.  Carter Jones nonetheless tried to collect the full list price amounts.

Sky Lakes also mislead Ingersoll and other eligible patients with unclear, false, and inconsistent statements about its financial assistance policy.  He applied for and received financial assistance in mid-2019, reducing some of his medical expenses by 90%.  Sky Lakes witnesses variously testified that such financial assistance approvals covered either the previous 12 months, the whole calendar year, or the 12 months following approval.  In contrast, Sky Lakes documents variously stated that patients must apply for financial assistance separately every time they receive services and, as to Ingersoll, stated that his financial assistance would only apply for a few months.  It did not even honor that date.

Each time Mr. Ingersoll went in for services, he would tell Sky Lakes that he did not have health insurance “but it’s OK, I’m on financial assistance.”  No one at Sky Lakes told him that was not the case, let alone treated his statements as new financial assistance applications, even though it tells patients they can seek financial assistance in person and at any time.

For this and other reasons, Ingersoll fell behind on his payments and Sky Lakes sent him to Carter Jones for collections.  His parents were elderly and ill.  Caring for them increasingly required all of his time and energy after work.  They passed away a couple years apart before and after the Covid pandemic, at which point he was laid off from his job.  Neither Sky Lakes nor Carter Jones told him that he could still apply for financial assistance even though he was in collections, or that they would have to apply such an application to all the bills he had received during the 288 days before the application.  Ingersoll asked Carter Jones that he be permitted to make $100 monthly payments, probably more than he could afford, but Carter Jones just laughed at him.  It filed suit in March 2020.

Months before the trial, the judge granted summary judgment for Mr. Ingersoll on the Account Stated claims and for Carter Jones on its Goods Had and Received and Quantum Meruit claims, awarding all the damages Carter Jones sought.  According to its attorney, Carter Jones nonetheless went to trial on the only remaining claims, for Action on an Account, because it wanted to make Ingersoll pay its attorney fees.

Attorney Matt Kirkpatrick, with support from Oregon Consumer Justice and Robert Le’s paralegal, Lucia Becchetti, joined Matthew Sutton as co-counsel for the trial in Klamath Falls on July 12 to 14, 2023.  Voir dire included around 80 prospective jurors who came from up to two hours away.  Many jurors were stricken because Carter Jones had also pursued collections against them or their family members.

On the morning of the last day of trial, the judge rejected Ingersoll’s proposed Action on Account jury instruction and prohibited any evidence about the reasonableness of Sky Lakes’ charges, saying she had already ruled, on summary judgment, that the charges were reasonable as a matter of law.  The jury nonetheless ruled for Ingersoll on two of the six Action on Account claims.  It also ruled that Sky Lakes did not charge Ingersoll interest, did not assign interest to Carter Jones, and waived any claim for pre-judgment interest.

Mr. Ingersoll is expected to appeal the summary judgment rulings and the four claims the jury decided in Carter Jones’s favor.  He will also argue, in his related federal lawsuit, that Carter Jones is bound by the jury’s determinations about prejudgment interest and therefore violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by attempting to collect more than $5,000 in interest to which it was not entitled.

Matthew Kirkpatrick

Navigating the Consumer Legal Landscape as a Young Lawyer

As a young lawyer, setting out on your legal journey, you’re likely exploring the myriad of specialties within the legal field. One area that deserves your attention is consumer law. In an increasingly complex marketplace, the role of a consumer law attorney has never been more crucial.

So, what does it mean to be a consumer law attorney?

Championing Consumer Rights

At its core, consumer law revolves around safeguarding the rights and interests of individuals in their interactions with businesses, products, and services. Consumer law attorneys act as champions for ordinary people, working diligently to ensure that their clients are treated fairly and justly. This can involve cases ranging from deceptive advertising and faulty products to debt collection abuses and unfair business practices.

Expertise in Regulatory Frameworks

A significant aspect of consumer law involves understanding and navigating the intricate web of state and federal regulations that govern consumer transactions. Consumer law attorneys must be well-versed in statutes like the Consumer Protection Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Truth in Lending Act, and others. Mastery of these regulations enables attorneys to guide clients through complex legal proceedings, offering them protection against unscrupulous practices.

Diverse Case Portfolio

Consumer law encompasses a diverse range of cases, making it an exciting field for young lawyers seeking variety in their work. One day, you might be helping a client resolve identity theft issues, while the next, you could be litigating a class-action lawsuit against a multinational corporation. This diversity keeps attorneys on their toes and requires adaptability and creative problem-solving skills.

Educating and Empowering Clients

An essential role of a consumer law attorney is to educate clients about their rights and options. Often, consumers are unaware of the protections available to them or are intimidated by powerful entities. Consumer law attorneys bridge this gap, providing clients with the information they need to make informed decisions and assert their rights confidently.

Advocacy and Impact

Being a consumer law attorney means more than just legal practice—it means advocating for change. By representing individuals who have been wronged by unfair business practices, attorneys contribute to the evolution of consumer protection laws. Their work can drive positive changes in industries, hold corporations accountable, and set precedents that impact countless individuals.


Consumer law is a dynamic and impactful legal specialty that offers young lawyers the chance to make a real difference in the lives of everyday people. It requires a deep understanding of regulatory frameworks, a passion for justice, and a commitment to fighting for the rights of consumers. If you’re driven by a desire to level the playing field between individuals and corporations, a career as a consumer law attorney could be your path to a fulfilling legal practice.

Emily Templeton, Attorney                                                                                                                   LinkedIn                                                                                                                                           Underdog Law Office

Additional landlord tenant updates from the 2023 legislative session

The 2023 legislative session was a stormy one, but now that it’s over and the dust has settled a bit, there are two significant changes to Oregon landlord tenant law, in addition to the major restructuring accomplished by HB 2001. The two additional changes in the 2023 session involve an updated cap on rent increases (SB 611), and changes to service methods for notices in residential tenancies (SB 1069).

SB 611, passed on the final day of the session, amends the cap on rent increases in residential tenancies to limit price hikes during high-inflation periods. Previously, Oregon law capped rent increases at 7% plus the annual consumer price index (CPI). Because the CPI in 2022-23 was so high, annual rent increases of up to 14.6% were permitted.

To prevent similar unpredictable increases in future, SB 611 amends ORS 90.323, 90.324, and 90.600 to limit rent increases to the lesser of 7% plus CPI (the current cap) or 10%. In other words, in high-inflation years, the maximum rent increase for residential tenancies is 10%. In years with lower inflation, the maximum increase would be lower. This change adds predictability for landlords and tenants, who now know what the maximum annual rent increase can be and can budget accordingly. SB 611 also limits rent increases to once in any 12-month period.

SB 611 does not change existing provisions exempting from the rent-increase cap residential landlords who rent units that have certificates of occupancy less than 15 years old, or units that are subsidized and the increase either does not increase the tenant’s portion of the rent or is required by the terms of the subsidy program.

SB 611 applies to all notices of rent increase issued on or after the bill’s effective date.

SB 1069, which does not take effect until January 1, 2024, amends ORS 90.155 and related statutes to permit residential landlords and tenants to serve notices by email, if the parties agree to do so by separate written addendum to the rental agreement. SB 1069 also allows landlords to return funds to tenants, including security deposits and rent refunds, by electronic means, if the parties have agreed to such electronic delivery in a written agreement. Significantly, however, notices terminating a tenancy, if served by email, must also be served by first class mail.

By Emily Rena-Dozier

2023 Updates in Tenant Law

Governor Kotek recently signed into law HB 2001 which modifies the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants in Oregon. The bill expands the protections afforded to tenants under the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act (ORLTA).

First, the bill allows for a tenant to pay any past-due rent to a landlord at any time during an eviction case for non-payment of rent in order to dismiss the case. This is basically a redemption right for the tenant. If it is the day before an eviction trial, the tenant can tender past due rent to the landlord and the case will be dismissed. If this happens, the tenant will not be allowed to recover their attorney fees or costs and the landlord can recover its filing fees. Basically, a dismissal after a tenant tenders past-due rent means neither party will be considered the prevailing party for the purpose of attorney fees and costs under ORS 90.225. This gives Oregon tenants extra time, if they fell behind on rent for whatever reason, to get back on track and avoid being saddled with an eviction conviction on their record.

Second, the Bill extends the time periods for the right to cure a past-due rent under ORS 90.394. 90.394 is modified to 10 days or 13 days for the right to cure unpaid rent before an eviction can be filed. Previously, a landlord could issue a 72-hour notice of unpaid rent on the eighth day of the rental period or a 144-hour notice on the fifth day of the rental period. Both are functionally identical in that they require the tenant to cure the unpaid rent by the eleventh day of the rental period. But now, the landlord can give 10 days’ notice on the eighth day of the rental period or 13 days’ notice on the fifth day of the rental period. So, the tenant can cure unpaid rent by the 19th day of the rental period. This gives a tenant who falls behind on rent an additional eight days to pay the rent without the landlord being able to file an eviction case.

Third, the Bill imposes additional inquiry requirements by the court prior to entering a default judgement against a tenant who declined to appear at an eviction hearing first appearance. Previously, if a tenant did not appear at the initial hearing in an eviction case, the landlord was automatically granted a default judgment for possession. No questions asked. But under the new standard, the court is required to make an independent finding that the complaint complies with certain procedural and technical requirements imposed by law. These technical and procedural requirements are frequently some of the most effective defenses a tenant has to eviction, but without a lawyer to identify and explain them, very few tenants would recognize they have such a defense. In addition, the landlord is required to submit an affidavit swearing under oath that the tenant is still in possession of the premises prior to obtaining a default.

Finally, the Bill sets up a system for the court to automatically set aside old eviction convictions. The court is required to annually conduct an internal, independent inquiry as to what eviction judgements have been satisfied and seal those records. Qualifying judgments are those where (1) any money award has expired or been satisfied or discharged, (2) at least five years have passed from the date of judgement or the judgement was by stipulation of the parties and twelve months have passed from the date of judgement. If an eviction is set aside, any prospective tenant when asked the question, “have you ever had an eviction entered against you?” can truthfully and legally answer, “no.” Prior evictions are one of the greatest barriers to low-income tenants procuring secure housing. And most renters are not even aware of the option to expunge an eviction record.

This new Bill demonstrates a continued movement to expand tenant rights in Oregon and address the obvious and drastic imbalance of power between landlords and tenants. The Bill is only one step towards true housing equality, but at least it is in the right direction.

-Kevin Mehrens


Student loan borrowers experience significant burdens beyond their loans’ repayment costs, including servicer misconduct and inefficiency, an oblique collections process, and system complexities. In response to these difficulties, Oregon recently passed legislation creating a student loan ombuds within the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation. The legislation, codified in ORS 725A.500 through 725A.530, also requires federal and private student loan servicers operating in Oregon to obtain licensure with the Division.

The ombuds’ primary responsibilities include receiving and attempting to resolve consumer complaints against servicers, monitoring and recommending changes to the student loan policy landscape, and developing a comprehensive statewide education program for student loan borrowers.

Lane Thompson was hired in June 2022 to serve as Oregon’s first student loan ombuds. Since then, she has contributed to the development of a website for student loan borrowers and an online complaint form for borrowers to submit for consideration. In addition, Thompson has spoken directly with dozens of borrowers and given numerous presentations regarding her role and Oregon’s new student loan legislation. Thompson also ran a communications campaign about the since-expired waiver for expanded borrower eligibility under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

On August 24th, 2022, The Biden/Harris administration announced loan relief of up to $20,000 for eligible borrowers. This relief is blocked by federal appellate court orders, which the administration has appealed.  SCOTUS will hear arguments on the relief program in February 2023.  In response to the delay in implementation, the student loan repayment pause has been extended to June 30, 2023, or 60 days after the courts render a final decision. Once the payment pause expires, borrowers will be responsible for making loan payments, many for the first time. In addition, nearly half of all federal loans have recently been transferred to new servicers. Thompson strongly recommends that borrowers begin planning for the reinstated payments. This includes budgeting and confirming loan details with their current servicer.

Finally, the student loan industry is rife with scams. The Division recent published an alert to notify the public of their prevalence. More information regarding scams can be found on the Division’s student loan website, along with a list of borrower rights, links to resources, and responses to frequently-asked questions. The site also includes Thompson’s direct contact information.

New Court of Appeals Cases in Landlord Tenant Law (2022 Edition)

The Oregon Court of Appeals has decided two cases impacting tenants and the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant Act (ORLTA) in the first half of 2022; Shepard v. Ormandy, 320 Or App 521 (2022) and Thomas v. Dillon Family Ltd. P’ship II, 319 Or App 429 (2022).

 Shepard v. Ormandy, 320 Or App 521 (2022)

In Shepard, the court addressed the appropriate tenant remedy when a landlord wrongfully charges the tenant for utilities in violation of ORS 90.315(4)(b).

ORS 90.315 is a lengthy, convoluted section of the ORLTA that controls the methods through which a landlord can bill its tenants for utilities.  When a landlord is charged by a utility company and passes those charges on to the tenant, a common scenario in an apartment building without separately metered units, then the tenant’s bill must include either:  (1) a copy of the utility company’s bill or (2) include a disclaimer stating that the tenant has the right to inspect the bill if they want. ORS 90.315(4)(b)(C). “If a landlord fails to comply . . . the tenant may recover from the landlord an amount equal to one month’s periodic rent or twice the amount wrongfully charged to the tenant, whichever is greater.” ORS 90.315(4)(f).

In Shepard, the landlord billed the tenant each month, for twelve straight months, without including the utility provider’s bill or the required disclosure.[1]  At trial, the plaintiff/tenant argued, and the trial court agreed, that they were entitled to 12 months’ rent because the landlord violated the statute 12 separate times by sending 12 bills without the required disclosure.

The Court of Appeals overturned the trial court and held that the proper measure of damages was either twice the total amount wrongfully charged over the entire twelve-month period or one single months’ rent for all twelve instances of non-compliance.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that the “legislature chose language that does not direct a deciding court to award one month’s periodic rent or twice the amount wrongfully charged the tenant, whichever is greater for each and every separate noncompliant bill sent by a landlord, and the legislature would have included language to that effect had that interpretation been intended.” Shepard, at 531.

As a result, in Shephard, the tenant was required to choose between $1,920 (double the $960 wrongfully charged among over the full 12-month period) or a single months’ rent of approximately $754.  Under the trial court’s reasoning, the tenant would have been entitled to 12-months’ rent totaling $9,050.

This, of course, represents a huge difference in damages for a tenant. And this holding will massively restrict a tenant’s ability to bring a suit against a landlord who fails to comply with the statute. By restricting the possible recovery to only one instance of one-month’s rent, tenant advocate attorneys will be hard pressed to convince their clients that such a lawsuit is worth the tenant’s time. And tenant attorneys need to be aware of this decision in weighing whether such a claim is worth bringing to them or their client.

Thomas v. Dillon Family Ltd. P’ship II, 319 Or App 429 (2022)

In Thomas, the court of appeals determined that a landlord cannot raise a comparative fault defense in a habitability claim brought by a tenant.

The tenant brought a habitability complaint against the landlord based on the landlord’s failure to properly maintain the unit’s refrigerator after slipping on water leaking onto the kitchen floor and sustaining multiple injuries.  The landlord learned of the malfunctioning refrigerator the day before the tenant slipped. The day after the slip and fall, the landlord repaired the refrigerator.

In its answer to the suit, the landlord asserted a comparative-fault defense, essentially arguing that the tenant’s injuries were caused by her own negligence and not the result of a habitability defect of the property. The Court of Appeals held that the landlord cannot claim comparative fault as a defense in the context of a habitability claim by a tenant.

ORS 90.360 states that “Except as provided in this chapter, if there is a material noncompliance by the landlord . . .  with ORS 90.320 (Landlord to maintain premises in habitable condition)” the tenant may recover damages (emphasis added). The Court focused on the except as provided in this chapter language in holding “[w]e understand that plain text to provide that any limitations on the recovery of damages or injunctive relief must be found exclusively in ORS chapter 90—the ORLTA—and not outside of that chapter.” Thomas, at 434.  Since the ORLTA does not provide a landlord with a common-law, comparative fault defense, the landlord cannot claim one in defending a habitability claim brought by a tenant.

The landlord’s duty to maintain the property in a habitable condition is absolute. The ORLTA is a strict liability set of statutes. See e.g., Humbert v. Sellars, 300 Or 113 (1985); Brewer v. Erwin, 287 Or 435 (1979). If a habitability violation exists, the landlord is strictly liable for damages resulting form that violation, unless the ORLTA itself carves out an exception. A tenant need not prove that a landlord was negligent as a part of a habitability claim, only that the habitability condition existed and the landlord either knew or reasonably should have known of its existence. See, Davis v. Campbell, 144 Or App 288, 293 (1996) (holding that the legislature did not incorporate “common-law negligence principles as predicates to recovery of damages under [ORS 90.360]”).

This ruling eliminates an oft-used avenue for landlords to escape or massively limit their liability for habitability defects. No longer will tenant attorneys have to argue at a motion to dismiss or summary judgement that the tenant is at least partially, if not wholly, at fault for damages resulting from a landlord’s habitability violations. This greatly increases the ability of tenants to demand living conditions that conform to basic concepts of habitability and greatly increases tenants’ incentive and ability to demand remuneration for injuries caused by those violating landlords.

[1] Claims would be limited to twelve months’ worth of billing pursuant to the ORLTA one-year statute of limitations. ORS 12.125.

Recent Decision by the Oregon Supreme Court Increases Tenant Protections in Nonpayment Evictions

By Emily Rena-Dozier

The Oregon Supreme Court released an opinion on July 28, 2022, that established important due process protections for tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent. In Hickey v. Scott, 370 Or 97 (2022), Justice Nelson wrote for a unanimous Court, holding that if a landlord issues a termination notice for nonpayment that demands more rent than is factually due, the notice is invalid and any eviction proceeding based on such a notice must be dismissed. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision to the contrary, explaining that the statutes regulating tenancy terminations in the Oregon Residential Landlord Tenant act “require precise and accurate information so that the tenant does not have to guess as to the exact nature of the breach and can be prepared to defend against it. * * * A notice that fails to meet those requirements—that is, fails to provide the precise and accurate information required—fails to give tenants that notice and, as a result, renders the notice invalid.” 370 Or at 111-12.

This case arose from an eviction proceeding where a landlord issued a termination notice that failed to account for payments made by the tenants, and instead demanded payment of more than tenants owed. Despite finding that landlord’s termination notice demanded more money to cure the nonpayment than tenants in fact owed, the trial court found for landlord, on the basis that tenants did owe some amount of rent. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a termination notice for nonpayment need only state an amount that landlord claimed to be due, not the amount that tenants actually owed. In reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court emphasized that, given the power imbalance between landlords and tenants, holding landlords to the strict letter of the notice requirements was necessary to provide tenants with the necessary information to respond to allegations of a breach of the rental agreement and, if necessary, defend against those allegations in court.

Because approximately 85% of all residential evictions are based on nonpayment of rent, this decision will affect thousands of Oregon tenants each year. Oregon landlords and tenants should be on notice that a termination notice that overstates the amount of rent due will result in dismissal of eviction actions.

FREE Consumer Section CLE on June 16 & 17 – Preventing Home Foreclosures in Oregon

Preventing Home Foreclosures in Oregon

Co-sponsored by the OSB Consumer Law Section and the Oregon Homeowner Legal Assistance Project, with support from Oregon Consumer Justice

1 p.m.–4:45 p.m. PDT, Thursday, June 16, 2022

9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. PDT, Friday, June 17, 2022

OR CLE credits: 8.75 General
Neighborworks America continuing education credits for housing counselors: (pending)
MCLE ID#: 90961

Cost: Free, but registration required

In-Person Event: Oregon State Bar Center, Tigard or Live Webcast | Search for FORE22 in the catalog

This two-part seminar will delve into historical information about homeownership preservation in Oregon, the state of foreclosure defense, and available resources in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The introductory track on day one will cover the foreclosure process including early case assessment, loss mitigation options, and financial assistance for homeowners. Learn how to help reverse mortgage borrowers, litigate mortgage cases, and explore bankruptcy as a home preservation tool during the advanced track on day two.

Register Here:

In Person


Download Brochure:

CFPB Issues Recent Advisory Opinion: ECOA Applies at All Stages of Credit Lifecycle

By David Venables

On May 9, 2022, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published an advisory opinion affirming that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) not only prohibits lenders from discriminating against borrowers who are actively seeking credit, but also prohibits discrimination against borrowers with existing credit.  According to CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, this recent “advisory opinion and accompanying analysis makes clear that anti-discrimination protections do not vanish once a customer obtains a loan.”[1]

The CFPB is charged with interpreting and promulgating rules under ECOA and it enforces the Act’s requirements with rules known as Regulation B. See 15 USC §§ 1691b, 1691c(a)(9); 12 C.F.R. pt. 1002.  Advisory opinions, such as this one, are one of many types of guidance documents that the CFPB issues to assist entities in understanding their obligations under the law.    Not all courts have applied ECOA’s protections to cover existing credit accounts, however, and so the CFPB recently filed an amicus brief[2] in Fralish v. Bank of America, N.A., No. 21-2846 (7th Cir.).  In Fralish, the district court had concluded that ECOA did not apply to those who previously applied for and received credit.  Consistent with its rationale in this advisory opinion, the CFPB explained in its amicus that the text, history, and purpose of the Act clearly demonstrate that the protections do not disappear once credit has been extended.

Enacted in 1974, ECOA is a landmark civil rights law which aims to help protect people and businesses against discrimination when seeking, applying for, and using credit by banning credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and age. 15 U.S.C. 1691(a). As noted in the advisory opinion, ECOA prohibits lenders from lowering the credit limit of existing borrowers’ accounts or subjecting certain borrowers to more aggressive collections practices on a prohibited basis.[3]  ECOA also requires lenders to provide “adverse action notices” to borrowers which explain why an unfavorable decision was made and the advisory opinion makes clear that lenders need to provide such “adverse action notices” to borrowers with existing credit. See 15 U.S.C. § 1691(d)(2)-(3).


[2]  The CFPB amicus brief was filed in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and the U.S. Department of Justice.