Court Ruling Strikes Down Wage Garnishments of Lower Income Wage Earners Supporting a Family

Paul Seckel June 7, 2017

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has ruled that creditors cannot garnish the wages of someone earning less than $1,000 per paycheck as long as that money is being spent on living expenses.

The court ruled on May 12, 2017 in the case of Merrida v. Credit Acceptance Corp. The case originated out of Mobile involving two women who were sued by Credit Acceptance Corp. for payment of car loans. According to court documents, Samantha Nettles owed more than $13,500, and Lenita Merrida owed almost $10,500. The amount included missed payments, interest and court costs.

They were first represented by Legal Services Alabama (LSA) last year, which argued the women’s wages of less than $1,000 per paycheck were protected by the Alabama Constitution from garnishment. After a ruling against the women at the circuit court level, LSA and the Southern Poverty Law Center appealed the decision and argued that they could not support their families on what they made if their checks were garnished. Previously the $1000.00 dollar exemption had been interpreted as a one-time exemption of $1000.00. The ruling in Merrida v. Credit Acceptance Corp. established that instead of a one-time exemption that the $1000.00 exemption should be applied to each pay check so that anyone earning less than $1000.00 per pay check is protected from wage garnishments that prevent them from providing the necessities for their families.