Every now and again there are instances in which a routine debt collection call sparks a series of unprecedented events that lead to a wild and unexpected outcome. In one such instance, a Missouri woman from Kansas City was targeted by a debt collector for a debt that, she insisted, was not hers. Refusing to believe a story the collector had probably heard a thousand times before, he moved forward with his attempt to collect the debt, a bill of $1,000 that was owed to a credit card company. He sued her over the debt without first investigating the legitimacy of her claim. What followed was a significant move on behalf of the Jackson County Court to teach aggressive debt collectors a lesson.
LEGITIMACY OF THE DEBT
The debt in question was a credit card debt for the sum of $1,000 that was purchased by Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, one of the nation’s largest buyers of debt. A powerful collection agency, Portfolio Recovery Associates continued to harass Maria Guadalupe Mejia, the defendant, for the money. She insisted the debt was not hers; that, in fact, it belonged to a man with a similar name. The company was persistent, and refused to accept this claim or to even look into it, and took her to court. This is in direct violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
During the trial, the court found that the company had acted maliciously in suing Mejia. Jackson County Circuit Judge Joel P. Fahnestock had stricken Portfolio Recovery Associates’ pleadings after the collection agency failed to provide requested information regarding the case. Then, the jury took it into their hands to issue a heavy punishment.
Damages were determined that exceeded expectations. Upon hearing evidence for a period of five days prior to assessment, actual damages amounting to $250,000 for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act were awarded to Mejia, along with an astonishing $82,990,000 in punitive damages for malicious prosecution.
One of Mejia’s lawyers, Gina Chiala, felt this verdict was justified based on the company’s history of aggressions toward debtors. “This company has gained a reputation for take no prisoners, ‘If you mess with us, we’re going to take you all the way, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on this litigation, you’re going to have to go all the way to trial.’ And so, among consumer lawyers, they are known to be very aggressive in litigation and to not stop; even when they’re wrong, they’re just not going to stop.”
On an interesting note, Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC holds a 1-star rating with Consumer Affairs, with several complaints regarding harassment and illegal behaviors under the FDCPA. If you are being targeted by debt collection harassment in Fort Lauderdale, The Law Offices of Jibrael S. Hindi can help you put an end to it. In some cases, it is even possible to counter sue the debt collection company and collect damages. Don’t hesitate to speak with an expert on consumer law. Contact us online or call us at 1-844-JIBRAEL for a free consultation. At The Law Offices of Jibrael S. Hindi, you don’t pay us until YOU get paid!