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May 11, 2019

Status update - Bankruptcy court filings and progress.

Since the last update, Mr. Berman has also filed bankruptcy.  This does not mean that the class will not receive money at some point in the future. Instead, it means that both Mr. Berman and B. & J. Properties are claiming that the amount of their assets (the amount of money available to pay off their debts) is less than their liabilities (the amount of money they have to pay to the class and other creditors), and that they should not have to pay the full amount to anyone.

As part of the bankruptcy, both Mr. Berman and B. & J. have filed statements (called schedules) with the court outlining how much money and assets they claim to have, and how much money they owe.  I have posted those statements on this website.  Click here if you want to review their schedules. 

Bottom line, however, is that we believe that: (1) Mr. Berman and B. & J. Properties have understated the value of their assets, and in spite of their claims otherwise, they have enough to pay off the amount owed to you and the class in full, and (2) based on bankruptcy law, Mr. Berman will not be able to "discharge" or lessen the amount he owes you and the class. That is because of the type of conduct that created the debts was not simply accidental, but instead was fraudulent or intentional. 

 

I have posted the "Complaint for Nondischargeability" that sets out in legal terms why we believe Mr. Berman will not be able to discharge any of the amount he owes you or the class.  Click here to see that document.

For now, there is nothing you need to do except contact us immediately if any of your contact information such as address, phone number, email address, etc. changes.  At some point in the future, we hope to be able to send you a check, and it will get to you much faster if we have your current contact information.

January 29, 2019

 

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

 

Notice of Debtor’s Intent To Reject Commercial Lease …

 

You likely received a document in the mail titled “Notice of Debtor’s Intent To Reject Commercial Lease …” (We will call it the “Notice” for short.)  The Notice was sent to you by the defendants as part of this ongoing class action lawsuit against the owners and operators of Salem RV Park (“Park”).  If you did not receive the Notice, you can see a copy by clicking here.

 

First, please note that you do not need to do anything related to the Notice. Your failure to take any action will have no effect on your existing judgment and will have no effect on your right to potentially receive money in this case.

 

Below, I will explain what this Notice means: 

 

  • There are three “defendants” in this case.  They are Better Business Management  (“BBM”), B. & J. Properties  (”B&J”), and William Berman  (“Mr. Berman”).

 

  • BBM operated and managed the Salem RV Park.  That was who you typically dealt with when paying bills, scheduling maintenance, etc.

 

  • B&J owns the land under the Salem RV Park. 

 

  • William Berman and his wife own both BBM and B&J.

 

  • Together the three defendants owe you the amount of money shown in the judgment entered in this case.  (Click here to see the judgment, and the amount you are currently owed.)  

 

  • We have the right to collect the amount owed to you from the defendants in any combination.  For example, each may pay one third of the amount owed, one may pay it all, or they can pay in any other combination.  Note, however, that you cannot collect more than the total amount shown as due to you in the judgment.

 

  • Each month, when you and others paid rent to Salem RV Park, BBM paid most of the money to B&J.  Because of that and other reasons, BBM was essentially a “sham” corporation, with very little money or assets, and no insurance to pay its liability in this case.

 

  • In December of 2017 we had a trial in this case in Marion County Court before the Judge.  Before that trial, BBM was the only defendant that had been found liable by the Judge and was the only defendant required to pay you money.  At trial, we proved that BBM was a sham corporation, and that B&J and Mr. Berman should also have to pay you money in this case.  That trial is why all three defendants are now required to pay the amount owed to you.

 

  • BBM rents the property under Salem RV Park from B&J.  There is a rental contract between them.  It requires that BBM pay money to B&J each month.  It also says that if BBM is unable to pay rent, becomes insolvent, or other things happen B&J can “reject” the lease and take over operation of the Park. The Notice was sent to inform you that B&J has decided to take over the Park, and that BBM will effectively have little If any further involvement with the Park.

 

  • Based on our research and understanding, B&J’s decision to take over operation of the Park does not significantly impact your future ability to receive payment in this case.  BBM has always been a sham corporation with no money or assets.  It was created by Mr. Berman and B&J as a middleman to try to avoid liability.

 

  • In short, we see no reason to object to the action proposed in the Notice.

 

Bankruptcy filing and related issues

 

B&J recently filed for bankruptcy protection.  We also expect that Mr. Berman will do the same in the near future. This does not mean that you will not receive any money from B&J at some point.  Instead, it means that because B&J has to pay the Class over $4.8 million (and likely more with ongoing interest and attorney fees), the amount they now owe exceeds the amount they have available to pay.  We cannot take any action to attempt to collect the amounts due to you while the bankruptcy is pending.  There are a number of other steps that we will take to preserve your right to payment out of the bankruptcy proceedings.  We will provide periodic updates on this website as things progress.

 

There are some advantages to you and the Class from the bankruptcy filing.  First, it means that an attorney from the U.S. Trustee’s Office has been assigned to the case.  The U.S. Trustee office is a component of the Department of Justice that works to protect the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. She will oversee the process and will interview the Debtor. That lessens the potential for misconduct from B&J or its owners, such as hiding money or other assets, or other unlawful actions. It also means that we will be provided with bankruptcy schedules that will list B&J’s assets such as money and property.  It will show the amount of debt B&J owes to others besides the Class in this lawsuit.

 

Although the bankruptcy process is lengthy, it does not mean B&J can avoid the debt to you and the Class entirely.  We are in the early stages, but expect to have more information, including the bankruptcy schedules soon.  We will update the website periodically as we receive more information.  Please check back regularly for updates.

 

The discussion above applies equally to any bankruptcy filing by Mr. Berman.

Appeal

 

All three defendants have filed an appeal in this case.  That means that they want the appeals court review the rulings and the judgment by the trial court judge.  The appeals court will determine if the trial court judge made any mistakes serious enough to require it to overturn the judgment awarding you money, or whether we must re-do any of the things done previously at the trial court level.

 

While anything can happen, we do not believe defendants can present any issue to the appeals court that will put your judgment at any substantial risk.  The biggest concern is that appeal takes time, and this will add yet another year or two to the case. There is nothing we can do to shorten that process.  On the positive side, under Oregon law your judgment is increasing by 9 percent per year beginning November 1, 2018.

 

Settlement Negotiations

 

The appeals court strongly urges us to attempt to settle the case before the appeals process begins.  Toward that, we have stated discussions with the defendants, and hopefully will mediate the case in the near future with hopes of reaching a settlement. 

 

Bottom Line

 

For now, there is nothing you need to do in order to protect the judgment awarding money to you in this case.  Things are moving forward, but please understand that unless we are successful at mediation, this case will probably not result in any payments for at least another year or more.

 

It is important that you keep us informed of any changes in your contact information.  If anything has changed (i.e. address, email address, phone number, etc.) please contact us with an update.  Otherwise, we will not be able to contact you at the conclusion of this case to send you money we may obtain for you.

November 2, 2018

 

Great news! As anticipated in the September 28, 2018 update, the judge on this case signed and entered a General Judgment into the court's register.

 

In short, this means that each class member with an accepted claim now has a valid and enforceable legal judgment  (which is a legal right to collect money) against the three defendants (together, referred to as SRVP) in this case. You can see a copy of the Judgment showing the amounts due to each member of the class (and due to you, if you are a class member) by clicking here. 

 

The basic facts are that the total amount due to the class for all class members combined is $4,864,951. This total consists the money due to two classes.

 

The first is called the Electricity Class, and consists of people who were overcharged for electrical service and a meter reading fee at SRVP from April 2003 until August 2013. The total amount due to the Electricity Class is $3,900,501.

 

The second is called the Retaliation Class, and is composed of tenants at SRVP in April 2013 whose rent was raised in August 2013.  The total amount due to the Retaliation Class is $964,450.

From this point, we are taking steps to determine what assets are available to "satisfy" or pay the legal judgments held by each of you as shown on the General Judgment.  We intend to press forward using all available methods to obtain the money and will update this page regularly based on future events.

The important question, of course, is if you are listed and due money under the Judgment, when do you get your money?  The short answer is that if and when we obtain money from SRVP, it will be paid out to you. 

 

HOWEVER, please bear in mind that there may still be several more steps before we can have any money to pay out on your Judgment.

Under our legal system, even though you now have a valid and enforceable right to collect money from the SRVP, there are a few different things it can do to challenge the Judgment or otherwise further delay the process.

These include (1) appealing the case; (2) declaring bankruptcy; (3) offering less that the amount of the judgment to settle the case; or (4) some unforeseen legal maneuver.  We will discuss each in turn.

1.   Appeal

A defendant in Oregon has an automatic right to ask the Oregon Appeals Court to review the decisions and results in the case that led up to the judgment.  That means that the defendants (SRVP) can, if it chooses, file a request with the Appeals Court saying that it disagrees with one or more of the things that have happened in the case leading to your Judgment. That process requires SRVP and the Class to file legal briefs with the court, then go before a panel of judges to argue the appeal.  Then, at a time of the Appeals court's choosing, it will publish its opinion.  The opinion can affirm (or agree with) the judge's decisions on the case.  If so, then SRVP can appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.  That is not automatic - the Oregon Supreme court has the right to refuse to get involved.  At that point, SRVP has no more appeals within the Oregon system.

 

The appeals process can take from 6 to 24 (or more) months to complete.  We should know within about a month whether SRVP decides to appeal the case.

 

2.   Declaring Bankruptcy

SRVP may claim that it qualifies for protection by the bankruptcy courts.  That does not mean that SRVP will never have to pay money that it owes, but that the court will establish a plan that distributes SRVP's assets in a way that is fair to its creditors.  If SRVP files for bankruptcy protection, we intend to argue that its misconduct leading to the Judgment was "intentional" and therefore not subject to bankruptcy protection.  We will, as the saying goes, cross that bridge when we come to it.

3.   Offer a Percentage of the Judgment as Settlement

SRVP may decide to offer something less than the amount it owes under the Judgment in order to settle the case and avoid either the appeals or bankruptcy process. Any amount less than the total amount of the Judgment will have to ba approved by the judge.  Because we believe the judge's decisions in this case were well supported by Oregon law, we do not anticipate recommending a settlement less than the judgment in this case. Again, we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

4.   The Bottom Line

For now, there is nothing any class member listed on the Judgment needs to do except remain patient.  This may still take a while. We will update this page as further facts unfold.

 

September 28, 2018

 

We have finalized our calculations of the amount that each valid claim is due under the court's rulings.  These have been submitted to the Salem RV Park defendants, who are reviewing them for accuracy.  After any of the issues are resolved, we will send this information to the judge.  We anticipate that he will then enter an Order and then a Judgment awarding each of you the amounts due to you.  

 

While that seems like it should be the "finish line", it is not.  As discussed below, we will have to wait and see what the Salem RV Park defendants decide to do, and then proceed accordingly.

 

Please continue to check back to this page to see any updates.

 

 

 

Status - May 14, 2018

As discussed in the January 23, 2018 posting below, we recently completed a trial to the judge in this case. The trial was to decide who is responsible for payment of money to class members and for attorney fees and costs. 

 

There were three different parties named in this case as potentially liable to pay money to the class.  Those were (1) Better Business Management, Inc. ("BBM"), (2) B. & J. Property Investment, Inc. ("B&J"), and (3) William J. Berman ("Berman").  For shorthand, I will refer to them as "Defendants."

BBM claimed that it owned and operated the Salem RV Park.  B&J owned the land used for the Park. Mr. Berman and his wife own both BBM and B&J.

 

The court previously determined that BBM was liable and responsible for payment of all damages awarded to the class, which currently exceed $4.5 million dollars plus attorney fees and costs.

Unfortunately, BBM had no insurance coverage and little or no money to pay the claims in this case. 

 

Because of that, we determined that under Oregon law Mr. Berman and B&J should be held jointly responsible with BBM for payment of claims in this case. 

 

Our theory was that BBM was not a true corporation, but instead an "alter ego" or front for B&J and Mr. Berman.  B&J and Mr. Berman disagreed with us, which created the need for the trial.

After trial, the judge issued a written ruling. (Click here to view and read a copy if you are interested in the particulars.)  In short, he agreed with us and ruled that Mr. Berman and B&J are also responsible for payment of all claims, fees, and costs in this case.

We are now working out some details associated with the judge's rulings and working with lawyers for Defendants to determine the amount each valid claimant is to receive.  

 

After that, the judge will enter an "Order" and shortly afterward, a "Judgment" that will legally obligate each of the Defendants to pay the full amount due to the class.

The Judgment creates an enforceable legal obligation requiring Defendants to pay the amount due.  Even so, it does not guarantee that they will actually pay. Instead, one or more of the Defendants may file bankruptcy, appeal the case, or simply not have the funds to pay the full amount due.

 

If one or more files bankruptcy, then we will vigorously pursue the funds through that process.  Based on information we have received, we anticipate there will be some assets available to the class from a bankruptcy proceeding.  Further, because the claims were based on intentional and willful misconduct by Defendants, we will argue that the claims cannot be discharged through the bankruptcy process. The law prevents discharge of debts for certain types of intentional misconduct.

Regardless, while things continue to go forward and in our favor, we are not yet to the finish line. 

Several class members have asked:

     (1)   When can I expect a payout from this case?, and

     (2)   How much will I get?   

 

The most accurate answers we can provide at this point are: 

 

     (1)   We do not yet know when you will receive money.  It depends on many things, including whether one or more of the Defendants files bankruptcy or an appeal.  Check back here for updates and keep us informed with your most current contact information if anything changes.

     (2)   We know the amount that you and each valid claimant is legally due to in this case, and can forward your calculation to you upon request. Because we do not know the amount of Defendants' total assets available to pay claims in this case, we do not know what percentage of that amount you will get.  That amount will be based on the ratio of total damages due to the entire class in this case to the amount actually recovered from Defendants. 

 

To illustrate, assume the entire class is owed $4,500,000, and that you are owed $10,000. (These numbers are chosen for example purposes only).

 

If after attorney fees and costs are paid in this case a total of $3,000,000 remains for the class, then your recovery will be calculated as follows:

Amount of your recovery = $10,000 x ($3,000,000 / $4,500,000) = $6,666.67. 

As you can see, there are still a number of unknowns and work to be done. We are, however, meeting with legal success on the issues and making steady progress.

For now, please be patient and check back to this website every few weeks for updates.

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Current status -- January 23, 2018

 

 

Claim Forms:

The judge overseeing this class action has determined which claim forms are valid and accepted, and which are denied.  The judge's decisions are shown in this document, which has not yet been signed by the court.  Even so, we believe this proposed Order accurately reflects the status of the judge's rulings regarding the claim forms in this case.  We will post a final, signed Order after the court signs the document.

 

If your name is on the list of excluded claim forms and you have questions, please contact us to discuss.  

 

If you submitted a claim form to us, and your name is NOT on the list of excluded claim forms, then your claim form has been accepted.  

 

 

If your claim has been accepted (that is, your name is not listed in the court's Order), there is nothing for you to do currently, except to make sure you notify us of any change in your address or contact information.

 

 

Recent trial:

We expect to receive rulings from the judge in the near future relating to the recent trial. There, the class representatives asked the judge to rule that B&J Property Investments (the owner of the land at SRVP) and Mr. Berman (the owner of both B&J Property and Better Business Management / SRVP) are liable for payment of damages in this case. 

 

That result will be important because Better Business Management was uninsured for the type of claims made in this case, and it has essentially no assets or money to pay out to class members in this case.  We believe that Mr. Berman and B&J Property have substantial assets that would provide money to at least partially satisfy any money judgment in this case.

 

We will post the results from the trail on this website as soon as we receive rulings from the judge.

 

 

Current status --  (January 1, 2018)

 

There was a hearing before the court regarding which claim forms are accepted by the court, and which are not.  Please check back on Friday, January 5, 2017
We are finalizing the results of the November 20, 2018 for an update.

 

Current status --  (October 26, 2017)

 

Click here to see if Salem RV Park has challenged your Claim Form as invalid or as requiring additional evidence to be valid. 

 

The next court event is November 20, 2017, 9 am, Marion County Courthouse, 100 High Street SE, Salem, Oregon. On that day, the judge will consider any objections remaining with any challenged Claim Forms. 

 

If you were contacted about issues with your Claim Form, or if your Claim Form has been challenged, you should contact us immediately, and attend the hearing either in person or on the phone.  Your attendance will allow you to be available to respond to questions or tell the court why your claim should be accepted.

 

by November 17, If you intend to appear and speak at the November 20 hearing by telephone, please contact us 2017 to make the necessary arrangements.

 

The court will use any information presented by you at the November 20, hearing to determine whether your challenged Claim Form is allowed, rejected, or you will need to appear at a trial of this case at a later date to determine its validity.  2017

 

If hearing, there will likely be no additional opportunity for the court to reconsider your Claim Form or hear your reasons why it should be accepted.  challenged, and is rejected by the judge at the November 20, 2017been has Form Claim your

 

If the judge determines that you will need to appear at the trial of this case (at a later date) to present evidence related to your claim, then we will work with you to prepare your testimony.

 

Please contact us if you have questions, or need clarification regarding any of the above information.

 

 

Current status --  (October 5, 2017)

 

IMPORTANT DEADLINE - October 12, 2017.

 

Your attorneys (that is, the attorneys for the class and subclass) have been working with the SRVP attorneys and the judge in this case to resolve any outstanding issues related to the class action claim forms you submitted previously. 

 

Many of you have received, or will continue to receive contact from our office.  PLEASE immediately respond with a return call or contact, or if items or information has been requested, please provide those things immediately. 

 

The deadline for correcting any problems with your claim forms is October 12, 2017 (a week from now).  If you do not contact us and resolve the issues we have contacted you about, there is a VERY SIGNIFICANT RISK that your claim will be rejected, and you will RECEIVE NO RECOVERY IN THIS CASE.

 

 

If you were contacted about issues with your claim form, and are concerned as to whether your claim will be acceptable to the court, you should attend the hearing either in person or on the phone.  That will allow you to be available to respond to questions or tell the court why your claim should be  

the judge for the case will consider any objections or issues remaining with any challenged claim forms.is November 20, 2017, 9 am, Marion County Courthouse, 100 High Street SE, Salem, Oregon.  On that day, The next court event accepted, if there is a dispute. If you intend to appear by telephone, please contact us and make the necessary arrangements.

 

We anticipate that the court will use any information presented at the November 20, 2017 hearing to determine whether challenged claims are allowed, rejected, or will need to be presented at the trial of this case for a determination of validity.  We also expect that if your claim is rejected, there will be no opportunity to have that matter reconsidered by the court at a later time.  

 

Please contact us if you have questions, or need clarification regarding any of the above information.

 

 

 

(July 19, 2017)

 

The claims period closed June 15, 2017.  We received approximately 300 Claim Forms from potential Class Members.  That includes claimants for the Electricity Class, the Retaliation Class, and some from persons who are members of both.

 

1.  Claim Forms - some need corrections, clarification, or additional information. (But that’s OK).

 

We are in the process of reviewing the Claim Forms to determine which are valid, which are valid and need corrections or clarifications, and which require additional information to determine whether they are valid.

 

NOTE:  if you submitted a Claim Form on or before June 15, 2017, regardless of whether it had errors, needs corrections, etc., you have met the deadline and are deemed to have submitted your claim on time.

 

As part of this process, you may be contacted by one of our staff members who will work to correct or clarify your Claim Form, or ask questions intended to clarify your Claim Form.  

 

If you have been contacted regarding corrections or clarifications, or seeking additional information related to your Claim Form, please work with our staff members.  This will help move your case more smoothly and quickly toward resolution.  If uncorrected or confusing responses are not dealt with now, you will likely have to deal with them later, possibly in a court-involved and more complicated process, and one that will almost certainly further delay your potential recovery.

 

2. Declarations (sworn statements) regarding certain facts

 

Each Class Member who submitted a Claim Form for themselves will soon receive a mailed package of documents from us. This package will include a Declaration (a sworn statement) that you will need to review and complete.  The package will include instructions regarding how to complete the Declaration, including two flowcharts to help you determine the accurate and truthful answers based on your particular situation.  

 

but package,

 

 

 

Please read over everything in this package carefully and completely before contacting us.  We are happy to assist anyone who has read the entire do not want to receive hundreds of calls from Class Members who have not taken the time to read over everything we sent.  The package of materials should be self-explanatory and provide sufficient guidance for most Class Members.

 

If, after you have read through everything, you still have questions or are unsure how to complete the Declaration, contact us before completing and returning it.

 

What’s next?

 

We have a hearing before Judge Graves, the judge overseeing this case, on July 27, 2017 at 1:30, in Courtroom 1A of the Marion County Courthouse.  At that hearing, we will discuss the current status of the Claim Forms and corrections, the next steps, and a date for trial of the remaining issues in the case. You are welcome to attend, if you wish.

 

 

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May 2, 2017 - Notice packages have been sent to substantially all identifiable potential class members.  If you did not receive a Notice Package, but lived at the Salem RV Park anytime after April, 2003, this does not mean that you do not qualify as a potential class member.  It may be that we were simply unable to locate you based on the data obtained from Salem RV Park or otherwise.  If you want to receive data related to your time at SRVP to determine if you qualify, please contact us using the "Request Your Data" button to the left.  If you otherwise have questions about whether you qualify, please review the Frequently Asked Questions by clicking the FAQs button to the left.  If that information does not address your questions, then please contact us.

 

Many of the Notice packages were sent to potential heirs of former and now deceased SRVP tenants.  If you received on of these packages and wish to make a claim on behalf of a deceased person, please fill out the Claim Form with as much information as you have available to you, and submit the form to us. We realize that may only be your contact information and the name of the former tenant, but it is important that you at least submit a Claim Form or Exclusion Form so that we can start the process.  The contact information in Section 1 of the Claim Form (or the similar section of the Request for Exclusion Form) should be in the following format:

 

     Deceased Tenant's Name c/o Your Name

     Your Mailing Address

     Your Phone Number

     Your Email Address.

 

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April 28, 2017 - Class counsel has mailed substantially all Notice packages to all potential Class Members, or, in the case of deceased potential Class Members, to their likely heirs.

 

Mailings will be fully complete by May 1, 2017.  

 

The mailed Notice packages include the Long Form Notice (a 24 page document describing this lawsuit), a Claim Form, a Request for Exclusion Form, a spreadsheet with data related to your tenancy and payments at SRVP, and a stamped return envelope to allow free return of the Claim Form or Request for Exclusion Form. (NOTE that you can also obtain each of those documents from this website, and can submit either a Claim Form or Request for Exclusion Form using this website).  

 

On May 1, 2017, counsel will also send notification to potential class members through all available and known email addresses. 

 

 

 

 

 

Case Updates and News

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