In a recent debt collection lawsuit victory, a federal judge ordered Johnson, Rodenburg and Lauinger, a North Dakota law firm in the business of collecting past due debts, to pay Timothy McCollough, a Montana man, $311,000 in damages for violating the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
After being hit on the head with an iron bar and suffering a brain injury, McCollough began receiving workers compensation checks. However, after those payments stopped, McCollough fell behind on his debts.
So he contacted his creditors to try to work out affordable payment plans with them and all of the creditors except for Chase Manhattan Bank cooperated with McCollough. Chase responded to his financial problems by selling his $3,800 debt to CACV, a Colorado debt collection company, and when CAVC was unable to collect what McCollough owed, it sued him for the money.
McCollough represented himself in the 2005 lawsuit, arguing that because the debt collection statute of limitations on his debt had expired CAVC’s lawsuit should be thrown out. (The debt collection statute of limitations is the amount of time after the debt became past due that McCullough could be sued for the debt; each state sets its own statute of limitations for past due debts.) The judge agreed.
But, that was not the end of McCollough’s problems with CAVC. Not ready to give up, CAVC turned McCollough’s debt over to Johnson, Rodenburg and Lauinger, which initiated another debt collection lawsuit against McCoullough. This time, angry and fed up, McCollough responded by hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit against the law firm. According to McCollough, “I was being shoved around” and “I don’t like bullies.”
McCollough’s lawsuit alleged that Johnson, Rodenburg and Lauinger had violated McCullough’s rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by engaging in abusive, unfair and unlawful debt collection litigation. Among other things for example, it accused the firm of harassing McCollough by calling him constantly, using bad language when they spoke to him, insulting him, and lying to him.
Ultimately, the judge agreed with McCullough. Not only did he throw out Johnson, Rodenburg and Lauinger’s lawsuit against McCullough because the statute of limitations on McCullough’s debt had expired, but it also ordered the law firm to pay McCollough $311,000 in damages.
Debt collectors have become increasingly aggressive about trying to collect consumers’ past due debts and many of them are not above flaunting federal as well as state laws to do so. If you are contacted by a debt collector and believe that your rights are being violated, don’t take it. Learn your rights. Stand up for yourself like Timothy McCollough did, and if necessary, contact a consumer law attorney. You, too, may have grounds for a debt collection lawsuit.