Vermont Supreme Court Throws Out Unifund’s Inconsistent Assignments

In Partners v. Zimmer the Vermont Supreme Court held that Unifiund, a large debt buyer, was unable to prove the chain of title in a collection case. Unifund claimed to have bought the right to collect a debt originally owed to Citibank. The trial court refused to admit papers said to prove the chain of title on the basis that they were insufficiently reliable. The court was particularly suspicious of the last assignment, of which two different versions were produced, signed by different people, but dated the same:

Given the significant inconsistencies between the copy of the assignment from UCL to Unifund attached to the complaint and the one produced at trial, and Unifund’s witnesses’ inability to reconcile the discrepancy, the trial court was clearly within its discretion in concluding that the documents purporting to assign the account from Pilot to UCL and UCL to Unifund, were sufficiently unreliable to be admitted under the business records exception. . . Unifund has not established the existence of any valid assignment empowering them to bring this collection action.

This case shows that, even with increased scrutiny by regulators, proper gate-keeping by state courts is necessary to police the quality of the evidence (or lack thereof) produced by debt buyers.