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Jury trials over medical debt to start in February; VanderSloot slams ‘misleading’ MRS statement

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IDAHO FALLS — Frank VanderSloot says “nobody is laughing” and “there’s nothing funny” about what Medical Recovery Services and attorneys Bryan Smith and Bryan Zollinger are doing.

The comments from Melaleuca’s CEO are in response to a statement Smith issued last week after VanderSloot announced he and his wife, Belinda, are contributing an additional $500,000 to help people fighting aggressive medical debt collectors.

RELATED | VanderSloots up donation to $1 million to help medical debtors, announce lawsuits will be filed against collection companies

“This is more laughable nonsense from Frank VanderSloot,” Smith said through a spokesman named Mark Harris. “After $500,000 in attorney fees, his team has won no cases and every single charge he has made here is demonstrably false.”

In a follow-up statement to the Post Register, Harris said, “MRS has won every single judgment that has been completed over the last six or seven months that (VanderSloot) has been involved.”

VanderSloot tells EastIdahoNews.com Harris’ statement is misleading, since his lawyers got involved after a judge had already ruled against the debtors.

“Here’s the truth. There have been no judgments at all since we’ve been involved,” VanderSloot said. “There were a ton of judgments that happened before we ever got involved and yes, it is true that MRS won those against undefended defendants. But after that, we got involved.”

VanderSloot explained the goal of fighting these battles is not to get debtors off-the-hook from paying their debts, but rather to prevent attorney fees from compounding the original debt by two or three times the original amount.

Snell & Wilmer, a Utah-based law firm with offices in Idaho, was hired by VanderSloot through Idaho Medical Debt, an organization that manages the fund. So far, the law firm has taken on 82 cases in the post-judgment phase, which had already been won by MRS.

“We’ve been able to negotiate a new deal for 31 of those so far and that, on its face, is unbelievable,” VanderSloot says. “You don’t ever get to change something after judgment but we told (MRS) we’re going to take this back in the courtroom and we’re going show the court how you got that judgment if you don’t settle with this plaintiff different than what we’ve got.”

Those settlements include reducing payments, reducing the amount owed to MRS and reconfiguring payments to make situations more reasonable for debtors.

For cases not yet resolved, jury trials are being scheduled in Bonneville County beginning in February before Judge Jason Walker, and are expected to continue throughout the year.

“There are currently 51 cases scheduled for jury trials in the coming months,” Snell & Wilmer attorney Douglas Farr tells EastIdahoNews.com. “But that is not the whole picture. Snell & Wilmer has been retained by 140 defendants in medical debt collection cases, of which 133 are adverse to MRS.”

Smith, through his spokesman Mark Harris, disputed VanderSloot’s claims in a phone call Monday. Harris says there have been no renegotiated post-judgement settlements, and maintains VanderSloot’s assertions are false. Harris, is a member of Cold Spark, a public relations firm in Pennsylvania.

Due to the disagreement, EastIdahoNews.com has requested documentation regarding the settlements, to perform an independent review of the both claims.

VanderSloot wants the public to understand their number one goal is getting the best outcomes for their clients. He also affirmed that there is nothing laughable or nonsensical about these cases.

“If you were to talk to any of the people we’ve talked to, none of them are laughing,” VanderSloot says. “None of them think it’s funny. These guys might think it’s funny but anybody that has a kind heart would not think it’s funny.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2015, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot provided the seed money to launch EastIdahoNews.com. For a short time, he was an owner. He has never had anything to do with the operations of EastIdahoNews.com. Nearly two years ago, he totally divested his ownership.

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