CHARLESTON – Tax preparer Jackson Hewitt couldn't convince the Supreme Court of Appeals to review a decision defining it as a credit broker for purposes of a class action.
On Jan. 13, the Justices denied a petition for rehearing of questions they answered last November for U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers of Huntington.
They returned the case to Chambers on Jan. 24, "for resolution in accordance with our existing principles of agency law and the guidance provided in this opinion."
Now Chambers can decide whether to certify a class action against Jackson Hewitt.
Plaintiffs Christian Harper and Elizabeth Harper claim Jackson Hewitt arranged for them to borrow against anticipated refunds at interest rates from 56 to 83 percent.
They allege violation of state credit consumer law and breach of fiduciary duty.
They seek statutory damages in more than 40,000 transactions, at $200 each, for a total exceeding $8 million.
When they moved for class certification, Chambers asked the Justices for help.
He asked if credit consumer applied when Jackson Hewitt arranged loans.
He asked if the statute of limitations barred the claim.
He asked if Jackson Hewitt acted as agent of the Harpers.
Last November, the Justices told Chambers to apply credit consumer protection law.
They held that a tax preparer who receives compensation from a borrower or a bank for helping the borrower obtain a refund anticipation loan met the statutory definition of a credit services organization.
They held that the statute of limitations didn't bar the claim.
They told Chambers he didn't supply enough facts for them to decide if Jackson Hewitt acted as agent of the Harpers.
They advised him to gather the facts before ruling on class certification.
John Barrett, Brian Glasser, and Eric Snyder, of Bailey and Glasser in Charleston, represent the Harpers.
Charles Woody, of Spilman, Thomas and Battle in Charleston, represents Jackson Hewitt.