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Last month a Jackson County jury awarded a Kansas City woman $251,000 in actual damages and $82,000,000 in punitive damages as a result of a lawsuit over an attempt to collect a debt the woman did not owe. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, demanded that Maria Guadalupe Mejia Alcantara pay a credit card debt of $1,130.14, despite her insistence that the debt belonged to someone else. Portfolio Recovery Associates continued to pursue legal action against Ms. Alcantara despite no evidence proving the debt was in fact hers.
Debt collection companies often purchase debt accounts without acquiring the paperwork showing the origin of the debt, such as the initial signed credit card application. This frequently leads to cases of mistaken identity, in which the wrong person is sued to satisfy the debt. Because most consumers cannot afford to fight their case in court, many debt collectors simply go after whomever they can find, whether they have proof they are responsible for the debt or not.
Ms. Alcantara filed a counterclaim for malicious prosecution and violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which was created to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts and to provide consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information. If the punitive award is upheld on appeal, half will go to the Missouri Attorney General’s office for deposit in a victim’s compensation fund, and the other half will go to Ms. Alcantara and her lawyers.
In the event you find yourself pursued by a giant company for a debt you do not owe, remember that there are laws designed to protect you and other consumers. You don’t simply have to roll over because the company is too big to fight. You may be entitled to receive significant compensation if the company is using unfair debt collection practices. Contact Wendt Law Firm P.C., today for a free consultation with our Kansas City personal injury lawyers. We will only receive a fee in the event of a successful resolution of your case