A published report from West Virginia details a case in which a county judge has issued an emergency order requiring a healthcare provider in the state to release and unfreeze assets which it had seized as part of a garnishment order, ruling that a seizure conducted while courts are closed and a stay at home order has been issued “violates due process of law.”
Furthermore, Judge Steven Shaffer of Preston County, W.V., ruled that seizing money that had been deposited into the plaintiff’s account from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act (CARES Act) violates the plaintiff’s “right to life, liberty, and property.”
Pieced together, the backstory is that one of the plaintiffs — who is a nurse at an assisted living facility — was unable to pay for groceries recently. When checking her joint account which she shares with her husband, an out-of-work coal miner, she found her account had been frozen because of an unpaid medical debt incurred by her husband.
The pair contacted an attorney, who began looking into the details of the situation. She found that the debt collection activities had begun after the state of emergency was declared in West Virginia, according to the report, and helped the plaintiffs file their lawsuit against the healthcare organization and the company collecting debts on its behalf.
The published report also details how another facility in West Virginia was still executive garnishment orders as recently as mid-March, when the pandemic was ramping up across the country.
An interesting alliance of state banking associations and consumer advocacies wrote to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice asking him to protect stimulus payments from garnishments, but the governor said it was up to the state Supreme Court to do so, not him, but that he has asked the court to look into what can be done.