In one of the largest collection awards ever granted by a jury, a California couple has been awarded $500,000 in damages for being harassed and threatened by the debt collection agency Credigy Services Corporation, reports insideARM (âJury Awards $500,000 to California Couple in FDCPA Case,â May 5, 2009).
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects consumers against abusive collections tactics by debt collectors, Manuel and Luz Fausto were awarded $100,000 for actual damages and $400,000 in punitive damages, granted by a jury for âmalicious and reckless disregard of the coupleâs rights.â
The award stems from a dispute over the coupleâs Wells Fargo charge card debt they thought they had paid off in the late 1990s, said the Faustosâ lawyer, David Humphreys of Humphreys Wallace Humphreys, P.C.
During the mid-1990s, the couple realized that their credit card balance was continuing to rise even though they were making payments on their account, but a local Wells Fargo branch denied their request to have the account frozen.
To resolve the situation, the Faustos went to a local debt settlement company that promised to negotiate a payoff of the credit card balance. The couple thought the account had been paid off in the late 1990s, after they made two money order payments.
Then in 2006, the couple was contacted by Credigy with a demand to pay $17,000. Even after a cease-and-desist notice was sent to a Brazilian affiliate of Credigy, the debt collection company still made over 90 threatening calls and sent innumerable letters to the Faustosâ home.
Debt collection attorney Manny Newburger says the jury award in this case is one of the largest given to a consumer under the FDCPA, noting that usually âthere is little or no evidence of actual damages presented by the consumer.â In this particular case, however, the Faustos were able to document the harassing nature of Credigyâs practices, including the companyâs baseless threats, having recorded the last phone call from the collector.
Newburger believes that the verdict in the Fausto case was based largely on state legislation and doesnât think that the size of the award will motivate more consumers to sue debt collection agencies in the future.
âI think this verdict is indicative of what this jury thought of this particular case,â Newburger said, âbut not of anything else.â
Correction: May 8, 2009
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction: The original post mistakenly referred to the $500,000 jury verdict as the largest award conferred upon a consumer under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In fact, the $500,000 decision is among the largest FDCPA findings on behalf of a consumer, but not the singular largest.
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