Debt Collector $311K. A debt collector in North Dakota was sued for $311K for trying to collect a $3,800 bill. The statute of limitations had expired and a Montana man sued the law firm over a a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger appealed the April 2009 summary judgment and damages awarded to Timothy McCollough of Laurel. The case was heard in July by a special panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Billings, including retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
The panel issued a decision Friday upholding the damages. They include $1,000 statutory maximum for violating the debt collection law, $60,000 in punitive damages and $250,000 for emotional distress.
“I’m just so giddy it’s all over. We’re finally able to take a deep breath,” McCullough told The Billings Gazette on Friday. “We knew we had a good case, but it just went on forever.”
McCullough said he hoped the case showed debt collectors that “people are going to know they don’t have to take the garbage. They can fight back.”
A call from The Associated Press seeking comment from Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger on Tuesday was not immediately returned.
McCullough had old credit card debts from the 1990s and worked with companies to repay what he owed, despite a head injury that left him disabled and on Social Security, which is exempt from collections. In 2000, Chase Manhattan charged off about $3,000 in debt, The Gazette reported.
The credit card debt was sold to CACV of Colorado, which sued McCullough in Yellowstone County for $3,816 in 2005. McCullough, who represented himself, argued that the statute of limitations had expired and that he had no money. The case was dismissed.
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