A U.S. district judge ruled on June 26 that Southern Mini Storage of Sanford in North Carolina violated the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) when it auctioned property belonging to a deployed special-operations soldier without a court order. The soldier, who requested to remain anonymous, stored personal items in the unit along with several thousand dollars worth of Army-issued equipment. Military officials found the soldier negligent for the loss and docked his pay as compensation.
After discovering her husband’s storage unit had been auctioned in December 2010, Angela Williams sought help from his Army unit and Fort Brag legal counsel. At the time, no one suggested the self-storage facility may have acted in violation of SCRA, and she didn’t know the federal law would apply to their situation, Williams told the source. Under SCRA, a lien foreclosure cannot proceed against a tenant, the tenant’s dependent who is in the military or a reservist without approval from the court.
The ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt led to an Aug. 21 undisclosed settlement between the soldier and the storage facility. Business owner Bertie Butler declined to comment, according to the source.
Williams told the source the items in the storage unit were valued at about $40,000. Some of the belongings were irreplaceable, such as three boxes of pristine Christmas ornaments from her great-grandmother and grandmother, and ornaments made by her children, she said.
The soldier was charged $8,044 for the lost Army gear, which was later deemed to be an overpayment. If a solider is found negligent, Army limitations cap the amount of liability to one month’s pay, according to the source. The monthly payments on the debt were a hardship for the family, Williams told the source. The couple was eventually refunded $3,500, but the soldier is still seeking a full refund and a reversal on the negligence ruling.
The solider and Williams filed a complaint with the Army Special Operations Command Inspector General and are awaiting a final report, but have been told the charge of negligence will stand. “There’s no doubt [the storage owner] violated the SCRA,” the solider told the source. “But what he did caused me to be found negligent by the Army. I don’t really care about the money. I would rather the Army said they made a mistake and I wasn’t negligent. I want to prevent them from doing this to other soldiers.”