Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a consumer may recover two types of damages; Actual damages and statutory damages of “up to $1,000.” In many of the cases that we handle, most consumers are only able to obtain statutory damages. Actual damages, under the FDCPA include emotional damages. So what does this mean? If you, as a consumer, can prove that you have suffered emotional damages at the hands of a debt collector, you can recover more money.
Recently, a federal jury in New Mexico has awarded a plaintiff $1.26 million in a case that accused a collection law firm of twice attempting to garnish her wages for a debt she did not owe, according to an article in the Albuquerque Journal.
The case stretches back to December 2006 when Target National Bank assigned the past due credit card account of Yazzie to Farrell & Sandlin. When Yazzie was initially contacted, she insisted that she had never had a Target credit card and that there was another person in her area with the same name. Yazzie said that she frequently got calls from other creditors attempting to find the other person. The law firm, nevertheless filed a suit in April 2007 anyway and got a garnishment order. When they presented the order to Yazzie’s employer, the business insisted that they had the wrong person. The garnishment writ was then dropped.
Unfortunately, Farrell & Sandlin obtained a second garnishment against the wrong Yazzie, again. This second garnishment order stayed in force until Yazzie filed her own suit against the law firm in March 2010, claiming violations of the FDCPA and other consumer statutes.
During the legal process, it was discovered that Target Bank had indeed supplied Farrell & Sandlin with the correct name, address and Social Security number of the true debtor, not the Lucinda Yazzie named in their garnishment actions. However, a former employee changed the social security number in Farrell and Sandlin’s system to the wrong Yazzie and hence this case ensued.
The jury awarded Yazzie $161,000 in actual damages for emotional distress and $1.1 million in punitive damages. Although Target’s attempts to be dismissed from the lawsuit were unsuccessful, the judge noted that the company did not err in the assignment of the account.
Moral of the Story to consumers – When discussing your FDCPA case with your attorney, be sure to explore the issue of emotional damages and what, if any such damages you may be entitled to. Getting statutory damages is frequently going to be a consumer’s sole remedy. It will be a consumer sole remedy, however, if emotional damages are not considered.
If your credit report has been damaged due to items that do not belong on it or if you have been the victim of identity theft, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin for a free consultation at [email protected] Call toll free (888) 293-2882. For more information about our law firm, Michigan Consumer Credit Lawyers, visit our website at www.micreditlawyer.com