In a time of rising costs and economic hardship, people are often just one unfortunate circumstance away from poverty: a family health emergency, a car breakdown, or loss of a job. To Paula Godfrey, it was unfathomable when all three things happened to her in short order.

In 2016, Ms. Godfrey decided to get a car. She looked around, did some price comparison, and eventually took out a loan to purchase a used vehicle. By 2021, the car had become both a financial burden and a necessity. Her husband had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and she needed the car to drive him to appointments and specialists. She lost her job – she needed the car for job interviews and, once she secured employment, to get to work. Having lost her income, Ms. Godfrey was unable to make the monthly payments, but she tried working with the lender to negotiate a lower monthly payment.

Then her car broke down while she was heading to a job interview. Still unable to make the payments and now not being able to afford costly repairs, Ms. Godfrey again asked her lender if they could renegotiate the monthly payment and if they could add the amount needed to repair the vehicle.  

The lender refused. But they offered a different solution to Ms. Godfrey: voluntary repossession. Given her inability to afford the necessary repairs or make payments, she agreed to turn in her car. The lender assured her that, in exchange for voluntarily surrendering her car, they would not pursue her for the remaining balance. The car was sold at auction for less than 10 percent of what she had originally paid for it.

In February 2023, Ms. Godfrey was shocked when she was informed that the lender had filed a lawsuit against her for the remaining balance. Still searching for work and dealing with her husband’s continuing ill health, she didn’t have the money they were demanding from her.

Increase in Intakes for Debt Collection in 2023 v. 2022

Ms. Godfrey called Legal Aid for help. After a consultation, Consumer Unit attorney Sudi Tasissa believed that the lender had violated the law and was attempting to take advantage of Ms. Godfrey. Sudi reached out to one of Legal Aid’s long-time pro bono partners to place the case.

Dean Gregory has been offering his free services for Legal Aid’s clients for more than 10 years, developing an unparalleled expertise in challenging financial institutions’ legal violations against people who can’t fight back without help. 

Dean agreed to take the case. He started negotiating directly with the lender, pointing out their inconsistencies and providing a robust defense against their overreach. With the facts on their side, Dean secured a dismissal of Ms. Godfrey’s case.  

Now that her case has been resolved without any financial burden, Ms. Godfrey can focus on finding steady employment and taking care of her husband as he battles cancer.  

Dean Gregory
“The linchpin of our legal system is access to justice for those living in poverty and without means to obtain high-quality representation. It has been a privilege partnering with Legal Aid over the years to ensure equal access to justice for the most vulnerable members in our community.”
Dean Gregory

Legal Aid's Impact

Organizational Information & Acknowledgments