I am often called upon to defend my clients when they have been sued by Hunt & Henriques. If you have landed on this page, you are probably concerned about a collection letter they have sent to you, or maybe Hunt & Henriques has even served you with a lawsuit and you would like to know if it is legitimate. You probably want to know what steps you should take next. You have come to the right place.
First Distinguish Between Being Sued and Receiving a Letter
This article primarily addresses what to do when you have been sued. Being sued is different than simply receiving a collection letter. If you have been sued, then probably somebody came to your door and handed papers to you. Whether you were personally served or not, the papers look different than an ordinary letter, and one of the papers will say that it is a “Summons”.
Alternatively, if you simply received a letter in the mail, and it looks like an ordinary letter, it is not the same as a lawsuit, i.e., it is not the same as being sued. You can check out my thoughts about responding to simple collection letters, here.
Who or What is Hunt & Henriques
First and foremost, Hunt & Henriques is a debt collector. This means: Do not talk to them.
They are also a law firm of course, but they are a law firm that exclusively does one thing. They lean on consumers like you in an effort to squeeze as much money as they can from them. Hunt & Henriques loves nothing more than unprotected consumers who do not know the rules of the collection game.
They are based in San Jose, California but their reach extends across the entire state. Hunt & Henriques directly employs only a handful of attorneys, but they also have access to for-hire “appearance attorneys” all over California who will fill in for them in distant courts whenever necessary. Currently, Hunt & Henriques’s application for a California debt collection license from the DFPI is pending, so for now they are provisionally allowed to continue collection activities in the state.
Who are the Attorneys at Hunt & Henriques?
The founding partners for which the firm is named, are Michael Hunt and Janalie Henriques. I have defended many clients, in many cases against Hunt & Henriques and I have never dealt with either of the name partners. My sense is that they are no longer active in the firm. Both of them became lawyers in the early 1980s and my guess is that they are semi-retired.
Donald Sherrill, is the managing partner of Hunt & Henriques, and is currently the only partner other than the founders (the other attorneys at Hunt & Henriques are designated as “associates”). I have dealt with Don on many cases, and have found him to be very personable and a consummate professional. But, make no mistake, it is his job is to take your money and you would be unwise to interact with him or any attorney or employee of Hunt & Henriques without being represented by your own attorney.
Other current attorneys at the firm with whom I often interact include Anthony DiPiero, Kurtiss Jacobs, Nicholas Mortl and Keri Salet. If you see their names on a collection communication, it likely means you are dealing with Hunt & Henriques.
In the heading of this article, I promised to tell you 3 immediate “to-do’s” when sued by Hunt & Henriques. Here they are.
First, If You Have Been Sued by Hunt & Henriques Do Not Talk to Them
I know, technically this is a “to-don’t” rather than a “to-do” but I’m still counting it as one of the three. (For more “don’ts” here is a list of the five most common mistakes consumers make when they are sued.)
The objective of Hunt & Henriques in any conversation is to get you to give them the money that you and your family are relying upon. They are on their home turf, and you, my friend, do not know the territory or the rules.
Remember that great scene in “Escape From Los Angeles” where Snake Plissken (Kurt Russel) faced off against some tough guys? Here’s how the scene went:
Snake: I’m gonna give you as*h**** a chance. What do you say we play by Bankok Rules?
[Snake picks up a can and the four tough guys back up and get ready.]
Snake: Now, nobody draws until this hits the ground.
[Snake throws the can straight up. The four tough guys watch it arc high into the air. Snake draws his revolver and kills them all.]
[The can then hits the ground.]
Snake: [Smirking at the dead men] Draw.
Don’t be like those tough guys.
They may offer you a “deal” to settle right away. Who knows, maybe even 50% off if it’s a big debt.
But, there are strings attached that will strangle you (as you will find out after you foolishly electronically transfer your first payment) and Hunt & Henriques will then soon have a judgment against you for the full amount.
You’ll be scratching your head asking “how did that happen, I thought we had a deal?”
You may then hear the sound of Snake’s tin can hitting the ground.
Second, Be Cautious When Hiring Someone to Help You
Don’t trust everybody that claims to be saving you from your enemy.
There are people out there (some of whom are attorneys) who are happy to charge lots of money to do absolutely nothing for you. An important clue, is if you contact the attorneys office and you can only speak to a sales representative rather than the attorney themself. How can you tell if this is the situation — ask the person you are speaking with if they are an attorney. If you get an evasive response — or indeed anything other than, “yes my name is … and I am the attorney who will be working on your case” then you might have problems down the road.
Then there are companies that focus on “debt settlement” that will ask to handle all of your debts (and likely completely destroy your credit in the process) when in fact you should be limiting your focus to dealing with a single compelling problem, namely that you have been sued.
Don’t let yourself be sold on expensive services that you do not need, which will likely lead to more problems and more lawsuits down the road. Failed efforts by debt settlement companies can quickly result in defaults on other loans that are currently in good standing so that you end up facing three, or six, collection lawsuits instead of just one. You likely won’t know that this is happening until you are served with the lawsuits.
Almost always, your best option is to hire an attorney who you trust, and with whom you have spoken directly, to defend you against the collection lawsuit.
Third, File a Response With the Court Within 30 Days (or Hire an Attorney)
You must file a response with the court within 30-days of when you were served with the lawsuit. Hunt & Henriques wants one thing more than anything else: They want you to fail to get your answer filed in time.
If you fail to file a timely response, Hunt & Henriques may be able to get a “default judgment” against you. That means, without your input, the court will give Hunt & Henriques a judgment against you for the full amount they are asking for. Hunt & Henriques can seek a judgment against you as soon as you blow the 30-day deadline. Even if a later court hearing date has already been scheduled.
Don’t blow the deadline.
I’m attorney, Ian Chowdhury and I defend California consumers against debt-collection lawsuits. Find out how to schedule a free 15-minute telephone consultation.