Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc. (MALS) helps thousands of individuals and families year after year. The following are examples of the extraordinary assistance our staff provides to clients. The stories are factual but the names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
It was not the first time Samantha had been forced to get a Protective Order against her husband. In a prior incident, he had threatened her with a gun. With a gun being involved in the past, this was a lethality indicator, demonstrating that the victim was likely to be harmed or killed by the respondent in the future. After a long, contested Order of Protection hearing, where the proof showed that the respondent had made threats to injure our client and to kidnap her and her small children to El Salvador, an order of protection was granted and the respondent was ordered to pay $600 dollars in MALS attorney’s fees.
Genevieve, a mother of a child with disabilities, was having difficulty in obtaining necessary nursing services for her daughter while she was at school. Because her daughter attended a charter school, there was a disagreement between the school system and the charter school over who was responsible to provide these services. We filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights and obtained a ruling that both the school system and the charter school had that responsibility. The result is that this child can get an education without risking her health.
In a Tax Court case, Thomas claimed his daughter and granddaughter on his tax return. His daughter was out of work but attending college. He was audited and after being unable to provide the proof needed, he received a notice of deficiency, which gave him the option to pursue his case in tax court. The proposed amount due was approximately $7,000.00. After review and analysis of the documents he had provided to the IRS, we determined that he needed to submit additional proof. We gathered the evidence that his daughter had lived with him and that he supported her and his granddaughter, and submitted the packet to the appeals office that handles pretrial conferences for the tax court. Upon receiving the information, the IRS settled and the debt was eliminated in its entirety.
Robert, a 12 year-old fifth grade student, was failing in school, having trouble at home and had initially been denied disability because tests showed him to be physically healthy and of average intelligence. After reviewing his records, meeting him, and attending a meeting at school, we learned that he was reading on a first grade level and had been placed in a special education program that involved an IEP, developed solely by the school. That plan required him to read more without any real effort to determine the cause of his problem and placed the blame on his supposed lack of effort and his mother’s supposed lack of instruction at home. We referred our client to a specialist at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital who willingly accepted TennCare. The testing and evaluation revealed that our client has dyslexia and needs special instructional techniques to catch up. The evidence was submitted to the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review and a fully favorable decision followed. The benefits he will receive will allow him to get the special care he needs until the school can be required to provide the services for him without charge. The retroactive award will be placed in a special account, and part of this money will be used to provide transportation to and from his special appointments while the education case is ongoing. His educational development will not be delayed any longer.
Miriam’s home was damaged by a storm. She hired a contractor to perform the repair work but the work was bad, so she ordered the contractor to stop. He sued her for the remainder of the contract amount. We took the case and sued the contractor for fraud and violations of our client’s consumer protection rights. At trial, we successfully defended the case against her and won a judgment her favor.
MALS represented Eleanor, a grieving mother who had lost her son and had made arrangements with a funeral home for his cremation. Due to a dispute over the agreed upon fee for the service and over what had been paid, the funeral home refused to release his ashes to her. She was heartbroken all over again. We contacted the funeral home and they agreed to release the remains, allowing her some measure of peace.
Because of a coding error by a medical provider, Harold, a 76-year old man, was being hounded by a collection agency for a medical bill that should have been covered by his insurance. We took the case and demonstrated the error to the provider, allowing the bill to be paid by the insurance company. After our explanation, the provider realized how unfairly they had acted and voluntarily forgave the balance that would not have been covered by insurance.
Lori, with two small children called the police to report an incident of domestic violence; however, when police arrived they were unable to understand our client due to her inability to speak English. The police interviewed her husband, who was the abuser, and left without taking a report. Our client fled to another state with the children to stay with a family member and her husband hired an attorney who filed for and obtained temporary legal custody. This required our client to return to Tennessee with the children. Her husband then made a request for the District Attorney’s Office to have a warrant issued for our client’s arrest for custodial interference. We were able to refer the client to a legal services program in the state where she was seeking shelter and she and the children were granted an order of protection against her husband. We worked with the District Attorney’s Office and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to ensure a warrant was not issued for our client. We drafted pleadings to reverse the temporary order of custody which had been granted to the husband. He was arrested for domestic assault and charges are still pending. His attorney dismissed the pending litigation which included the order awarding custody to her husband. Our client was able to escape an abusive marriage and she and her children remain with her family out of state, safe from the abuser.
After Sarah granted a power of attorney to her daughter, sadly, her daughter used that power to place her mom in an assisted living facility against her will. She also arranged that her mother was to have no visitors unless approved by the daughter. We were able to visit with our client in the facility, where our client revoked the power of attorney and put herself back in charge of her own finances and her own decision making.
John and Ella, husband and wife, had owned a heating and air conditioning service and came to us after a food stamp denial. The wife had developed Crohn’s Disease and the husband was diagnosed with COPD. Because they had no health insurance, they’d had to sell their business equipment to pay living and medical expenses. Neither was able to work, but neither was on disability because their medical records were lacking. They owned a house, but payments were delinquent and they were in danger of foreclosure. On the food stamp issue, they had been denied and told they were ineligible. Our clients were not told of nor did they understand their appeal rights, and the appeal time had run. While the wife was in our office, we contacted a DHS supervisor, who re-opened the case without an appeal, and our clients were approved for benefits. While they had come to us to contest a denial of food stamps, we also guided them in obtaining unemployment benefits for the husband and provided housing counseling which led to an application for mortgage payment assistance through the Keep My Tennessee Home program. It is expected they will receive as much as $40,000 in mortgage payment assistance.
Carrie, a stay-at-home mother with two children, one of whom had special needs, our divorce client had been physically abused by her husband and had not been in the work force for years. Her husband refused to pay her alimony and requested custody of the children. The Judge ruled that our client would be the primary residential parent, ordered her husband to provide health insurance coverage for her for one year, and awarded her transitional alimony for five years. Our client is now working towards being self-sufficient, with the assistance of our OPP program, and has enrolled in school.