I filed for bankruptcy in Kansas in 2001. It was discharged last year. Recently my name has been added to a class action lawsuit against a mortgage company my first home was financed through. This home was in Missouri and sold in 1999, 2 years prior to my bankruptcy and not involved in it in any way. I received yesterday a letter from a bankruptcy attorney that he would help me fill out paperwork so that I could keep 50% of any settlement money I receive from this lawsuit. The rest would go to him. Is this lawyer trying to scam me? I do not see how anything related to that house could be tied back to the bankruptcy since I did not even own it at the time of filing. Why would he only want 50%? By the way I have not received any settlement money--it has not even gone to court. "IF" I did it would be less than $3000. I currently reside in North Carolina.
2 Answers from Attorneys
This sounds like a scam but without seeing the letter neither I nor another attorney can be certain. There is a rule in bankruptcy that if you somehow acquired assets within a certain time after the discharge that may affect the bankruptcy. Examples are typically inheritances but it could be lottery or gambling winnings. However, you would need to talk to a Missouri bankruptcy attorney about that specifically as I am not a bankruptcy attorney. After this much time though, you are well outside the period covered by the rule and you have not even received any benefit so this is unlikely that your bankruptcy is affected. You can try re-posting your question to a Missouri bankruptcy attorney and see if any answer you as to the rule and the time period.
To figure out whether this attorney is legitimate or not, run a google search. The lawyer must be admitted somewhere - contact the state bar and see if the lawyer is a licensed attorney in good standing (some states directories are online and you can just look it up yourself). Check the BBB as well or other sites to see what hs been posted. It sounds unethical for an attorney to keep 50% of your settlement for just filling out paperwork. Even in contingency fee cases I have not heard of a lawyer keeping 50% of the settlement.
And what do you mean that your name has been "added"? Unless you are a named plaintiff in a lawsuit, your name is not added to a lawsuit. If you are a class member, then you are notified, you may or may not have to submit a claim form and you have the right to opt out of the class and get your own lawyer. In most cases, it may not pay to get your own lawyer and its easier to be part of the class and take whatever class members get. If you are truly a named plaintiff, then there is no paperwork to fill out. As a named plaintiff, you would already be represented by the plaintiff's attorney.
The 6 month rule does not apply to previously held assets. That is, when you filed bankruptcy you had an asset, namely a cause of action against the lender. Thus the interest is an asset of the estate. The first thing you should do is read the notice. There are deadlines to filing a proof of claim in class actions. It is legitimate to ask that lawyer for the case number and court to check what it is all about. It could be that he is offering a valuable service in assembling the correct documentation to file a claim. If the asset is real, then contact the trustee in your bankruptcy, he has an interest and may fill out the paperwork for you. In all events, he would have to secure all the funds, releasing only what you could exempt under the bankruptcy schedules. ( call your bankruptcy attorney who will tell you what the Missouri Code VAMS Section 513.427 will allow). Finally, your bankruptcy attorney should be able to help you with your claim.