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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

District Court grants emotional damages award in FDCPA Case

Courts FDCPA Debt Collection Settlement State Issues

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On June 17, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington awarded plaintiffs approximately $62,000 in damages, including $60,000 for emotional distress, after suing a debt collector for alleged Washington Collection Agency Act and FDCPA violations when the defendant allegedly attempted to collect more than what was owed and allegedly made false and misleading statements when attempting to collect. According to the amended findings of fact and conclusions of law, the court previously granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the defendant’s actions had violated Sections 1692e, 1692e(2), 1692e(8), and 1692f of the FDCPA, in addition to a provision of the Washington Collection Agency Act entitling them to damages under the Washington Consumer Protection Act. These actions included attempts to collect amounts not owed in three separate phone calls with one of the plaintiffs, one letter that was sent to both plaintiffs, and repeated and ongoing credit reporting of an inflated balance. The defendant allegedly made false and misleading statements, including that a judgment had been entered for the alleged debt, claiming that “Plaintiffs’ wages would be garnished, that plaintiffs had been evicted, and that various charges and fees were legitimate.” Though the defendant admitted the statements were made in error, the court ruled that the plaintiffs “did not need to meet the intentional infliction of emotional distress standard to recover” in this case under the FDCPA. The defendant’s actions caused the plaintiffs “stress, anxiety, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and other forms of general emotional distress … at a particularly vulnerable time for both plaintiffs, as they were experiencing the joy and challenges of raising a new baby.” The court awarded each of the two plaintiffs $30,000 in emotional distress damages.

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