I’m often asked whether a consumer can sue a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) if they owe the underlying debt. The answer is a resounding YES! The main purpose of the FDCPA is to protect all consumers against debt collection abuses, whether they owe the underlying debt or not. In fact, most people who sue debt collectors under the FDCPA owe the debt.
The FDCPA prohibits abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices. Some of the more common debt collection practices prohibited by the FDCPA are:
- informing third parties that you owe a debt;
- contacting you at inconvenient times or contacting you at work after you’ve told the debt collector not to;
- threatening you with violence;
- using abusive or profane language;
- threatening to take legal action when the debt collector has no intent to do so;
- falsely implying that you committed a crime by not paying the debt.
If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you have the right to sue the debt collector and recover damages. You are entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages and compensation for actual damages, such as emotional distress. And if your case is successful, the debt collector must pay your attorney fees. Because of this, most consumer lawyers will accept a FDCPA case on a contingency fee arrangement. This usually means you will not have to pay any attorney fees, unless your case is successful.
If you’re dealing with debt collectors, make sure to download and use my free debt collection call log so that you can document all of the debt collectors’ communications. And if the debt collector does anything that you think was unfair; untrue; or harassing, oppressive, or abusive, please contact me to discuss the situation further. I offer a free case review for all FDCPA cases and if I agree to handle your case, you won’t have to pay me any money up front. My fees come from the money I recover from you if you win your case or accept a negotiated settlement.
A victim of abusive debt collection practices was recently awarded $311,000 by a federal jury in Montana. The debt collector, the North Dakota law firm of Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger, sued the victim, who had a disabling brain injury, beyond the statute of limitations. The jury awarded the victim $1,000 in statutory damages, $250,000 in actual damages, and $60,000 in punitive damages. The court will next determine the appropriate amount of attorneys’ fees. This is one of the largest jury awards ever under the FDCPA. The attorney for the victim, John Heenan, did a remarkable job handling the case.
Under the FDCPA, a consumer is entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages for violations of the FDCPA, plus actual damages and attorneys fees. If the conduct is especially egregious, as in the Montanta case, the consumer may be entitled to punitive damages as well. If you live in Minnesota and have been a victim of abusive debt collection tactics and want to fight back, please contact me.