I’ve talked to a couple people lately who have told me about some really awful behavior by repossession agents. One person was run off the road by two repo agents working in tandem. Another was forced up against a wall and told that she was going to jail if she didn’t turn her car over. A third was physically dragged out of her car by the repo agent. Needless to say, all of these people were terrified by their experiences. All three of them called the police, only to be told that the police would not get involved.
Fortunately for these people, there is something that they can do. Although Minnesota law allows repossession agents to take your vehicle without a court order, they can’t create a breach of the peace while doing it. Clearly, running someone off the road, slamming someone against a wall and threatening to put them in jail, and dragging someone out of their car all result in a breach of the peace. In addition to liability for a breach-of-the-peace repossession, the repo man may also be liable for other damages as well, depending on the severity of his conduct. And in some federal jurisdictions, a wrongful repossession can also be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In Minnesota, unfortuntely, federal courts have held that a wrongful repossession may not be a violation of the FDCPA.
You can sue a repo agent that has wrongfully repossessed your vehicle and receive money damages. If you live in Minnesota and have had a bad experience with a repo agent, feel free to contact me for a free case evaluation.
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.
AOL has a disturbing interactive feature, detailing what AOL describes as “true stories” of illegal debt collection tactics and intimidation that were experienced by actual AOL users. Here are a couple of the most egregious descriptions:
“We had an unpaid bill because of a dispute in our retail business. Our sales rep doubled our order and then went on maternity leave, and [the company] said the only person who could fix it was her! A bill collector from Texas called over and over and I attempted to explain (the situation) to him … The day before Thanksgiving he called and my daughter answered the phone — she was 7 years old at the time. He said to her, ‘Because of your daddy you are not going to be able to live in your house anymore and won’t be able to have Thanksgiving there with your family, it is your Daddy’s fault!’”
“This company still calls my husband’s work after receiving three written notices not to. Their representative also called our neighbors in her goal to embarrass us! They were calling my home up to eight times a day and hanging up on me, after I told them my husband wouldn’t be home before 6:00 p.m. The problem? There’s no way to stop them. They feel they are above the law and know there aren’t any attorneys who will waste their time suing them.”
“A collection company used city official names and paperwork to look as if I was being taken to court. However, when I called, the court knew nothing of the paperwork or of any lawsuit against me. It seems that the collection agency wanted me to panic at the sight of the papers and call the phone number provided on the ‘official-looking papers.’ Then they could terrify me and demand payment.”
Most of the experiences described in the feature are violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA. If you live in Minnesota and have experienced these, or similar, illegal debt collection tactics, please contact me for a free case evaluation.
(via Consumer Law & Policy Blog)