A friend of Enrico’s (henceforth “litigious friend” or simply LF) is suing a major integrated financial services conglomerate (henceforth MIFSC) in small claims court. LF had a credit card issued by a unit of mifsc. LF was a victim of credit card fraud, with bogus charges showing up on his card from red china. LF reported the fraud immediately to the mifsc, ordered the card closed, shredded all cards in his possession and took effective measures to ensure that no further legitimate charges occurred.
Months later, the mifsc reported LF as delinquent to the credit bureaus, and commenced a campaign of robocalls and human collections calls. Totally bogus.
LF repeatedly notified mifsc by land, sea and air that the charges were fraudulent, and instructed the collections callers (the human ones, anyway) not to call anymore. They pretty much blew this off, and said they would darn well call if they wanted to. LF took the precaution of making audio recordings of these hilariously blatant violations of the FDCPA.
Finally, he told the mifsc to provide proof by a certain deadline that it had notified the bureaus that the mifsc was a big fat liar, or else he would sue. LF is a patient man.
The deadline passed, and LF filed suit in small claims court, seeking $5,000 in damages.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is an interesting piece of legislation. It prohibits a large number of totally common practices by debt collectors. It is the contention of LF that virtually all debt collectors violate this federal law many times per day. The FDCPA provides for statutory damages of $1,000 per violation, and provides for recovery of actual and punitive damages.
LF says that mifsc violated the FDCPA in his case approximately 22 times. Many legal operatives contend that it follows that he ought to be entitled to at least $22,000 in statutory damages. This is an important part of LF’s theory of the case.
LF says that small claims lawsuits against companies of the ilk of mifsc follow a predictable pattern: first, the company’s legal department calls you up and attempts to settle for a derisory amount, somewhere in the range of $500 to $1,000. They apologize, and they exude the emollients of human kindness. LF claims that this first call is almost invariably from a female. If you reject this offer, sometimes the next step is a call from a somewhat more senior inhouse quasi attorney, who is essentially kind and friendly, but also a little threatening. LF claims that this call, if it occurs, is invariably from a male. This bohunk makes out how your claim is really totally baseless, but in the interest of getting on with life, they will deign to possibly raise the offer a little bit. LF says it is rare at this stage to get an offer higher than $1,000.
If you reject this offer, the next step is that the mifsc farms the lawsuit out to a real law firm. The lawyer phones you up essentially the minute the case lands on his desk, and asks you to explain the case to him. LF tells this lawyer “call me back when you’re familiarized yourself with the case,” and he hangs up immediately.
Typically, this lawyer calls back the very same day or the next day, and has actually now reviewed the case. He still wants you to explain it to him. LF declines, tells this lawyer what it will take to settle, and hangs up.
So far, LF says he has never actually had one of these cases go to trial, and has always received a settlement for the full amount he sought.
Trying a case like this is very unattractive for the mifsc. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is such that the minimum even a marginally retarded plaintiff will get is $1,000.
LF says he told this lawyer that, after discovery, he intends to amend the lawsuit to specify 6 or 7 specific violations of the FDCPA, and then file a new lawsuit specifying another 6 or 7 violations, also for $5,000. Some courts will entertain this, and others won’t. But, the funny thing is, you can never tell what a judge is going to do.
LF also petitioned the court to allow him to bring a cameraman to the hearing. He hopes he will be able to post the hilarious proceedings on youtube. He intends to outline his case not only for the statutory damages, but also for intense pain and suffering. And humiliation! And lost wages! And loss of uxorial consortium! Judge Yeoman has a pretty good sense of humor.