For most people, Oct. 12, 2016 was a normal Wednesday. Donald Trump had not yet been elected president. The Chicago Cubs had not yet won the World Series. And everyone was still wondering who Negan had clobbered with his barbed baseball bat on “The Walking Dead.”
But for Craig Cunningham, who takes filing lawsuits against collection agencies to a new level, it was a very busy day. It was on this Wednesday where Cunningham filed lawsuits in three different federal courts — The Northern District of Texas in Dallas, the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth, and the Southern District of Texas in Houston.
The three suits were just a few of the three dozen that he filed against collection agencies in 2016, and with 82 total suits filed, that makes Cunningham among the most frequent filing plaintiffs in the business, according to a report issued last week by WebRecon. WebRecon’s report provides in-depth details of the 40 most frequent filing plaintiffs — with 2016 litigation activity — as well 2016’s most active plaintiff’s attorneys who file actions against collection agencies. The lawsuits generally allege violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as other federal and state laws. For collection agencies, knowing this important piece of information before making a call or sending a letter can be a life-saving tidbit. Knowing that the person on the other end of the phone is someone who specializes in suing collection agencies means that the call must be made with the greatest of care, if it is made at all.
All told, 2016’s 40 most frequent filing plaintiffs have filed 945 lawsuits. Meanwhile, the 40 most active plaintiffs’ attorneys have filed more than 7,200 lawsuits against collection agencies.
For all of 2016, the number of lawsuits filed against collection agencies was up 0.5% compared with the number that were filed in 2015, according to data compiled by WebRecon. That figure included a significant spike in the number of TCPA lawsuits and a steep drop in the number of FDCPA lawsuits filed last year, compared with a year earlier.
Going back to Cunningham, between mid-February and the end of December, he went more than a month between filing lawsuits only twice. October 12 wasn’t even his busiest day of the year. On July 7, Cunningham filed four different lawsuits, all in the U.S. Federal Court in the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville. Nashville is Cunningham’s jurisdiction of choice. It’s where he’s filed 55 of his 82 lawsuits during his career as a professional plaintiff.
For as geographically diverse as Cunningham was, he was not alone. Wayne Norman, who is third on the list with 48 suits filed, has done so in 19 different jurisdictions. Melody Russell, who is 11th on the list, has filed suits in 12 different jurisdictions. Meanwhile, Shlomo Oved, who is 16th on the list with 24 lawsuits, has filed them all in the Eastern District Court of New York in Brooklyn.
Among attorneys, if you get a phone call, email, or carrier pigeon from Todd Friedman, chances are there’s a lawsuit coming. Friedman has filed 416 lawsuits against collection agencies, well ahead of Matthew Berry’s 382 and Elliott Gale’s 313. For each of those three, and 32 others among the top 40, they skip right past the pre-litigation demand letters and go right to filing lawsuits, according to WebRecon’s data.
In Friedman’s case, nearly 60% of his lawsuits are filed as class actions, and 97% of them are filed in federal court.