21 Apr Montana Jury Awards $311,000 For FDCPA Violation
Timothy McCollough of Laurel, Montana sued Johnson, Rodenburg and Lauinger ( a debt collection law firm) for violations of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Mr. McCollough was awarded $311,000.00 in damages because of the unlawful acts taken by the debt collectors.
Mr. McCullough’s story is not unique. This is a story that is being played out in courtrooms around the country, and I am glad that the story is finally getting some publicity. Congratulations to Mr. McCollough for his efforts in taking a stand against the debt collection industry when they pushed him just a little to far. Mr. McCullough was quoted as saying: “I was being shoved around” and “I don’t like bullies.”Mr. McCullough allegedly owed a debt to Chase in the 1990s. At some time thereafter, the debt was sold to a debt collector named CACV of Colorado, and Mr. McCullough was sued in 2005. He represented himself armed with the affirmative defense that the statute of limitations had expired for the collection of a consumer debt. Ultimately, the 2005 case was dismissed.
In 2007, Johnson, Rodenbury and Lauinger filed another lawsuit on behalf of CACV of Colorado against Mr. McCullough. The 2007 lawsuit included approximately $6,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. This time, Mr. McCullough got mad, and he sued the debt collector. I couldn’t agree more with his strategy.
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. 1692) is a federal statute which was enacted to eliminate abusive consumer debt collection practices. It was also designed to provide an opportunity for consumers to dispute debts and obtain verification of debt information. Needless to say, it is not always followed. In today’s economy, the debt collector’s activities are getting worse and the collection violations are becoming more prevalent.
After a three day trial, a Federal jury awarded Mr. McCullough actual damages of $250,000, statutory damages of $1,000 and punitive damages of $60,000. Lastly, the Federal Judge will consider the issue of Mr. McCullough’s attorney’s fees.
This leads to the next question of whether the law firm will appeal the decision of the trial court. It is possible they will appeal the decision, and the Appellate Court may reduce the award or strike the punitive damages, but it doesn’t matter, Mr. McCullough has already won.
Mr. McCullough has set the standard for individuals around the United States by taking a stand against abusive debt collection efforts. In my opinion, Congress needs to amend the FDCPA by adding more violations and increasing the damage awards. Statutory damages of $1,000 is ridiculous. The damages should be $10,000 per violation at a minimum.
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