THE CASE OF THE OVERZEALOUS DEBT COLLECTOR
Samantha brought a bought a boat from a large company, Arc Marine, for the sum of $50,000. At purchase, Samantha paid $10,000 in cash and gave Arc a note for the balance, which was payable in sixty monthly installments.
She kept the boat in her driveway. After making several payments, Samantha had financial problems and fell behind in making payments. Arc’s attorneys, who are not part of a collection agency instead work only for Arc, began calling Samantha every day at her place of work and in the evening at her home. The calls continued despite Samantha’s verbal demands that they cease. When they did not, Samantha brought an action against Arc pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
There was testimony at trial about the number of times that the law firm’s employee called Samantha and that both Samantha and her employer were very upset. Samantha’s attorneys questioned partners of the law firm regarding how many such suits they handled and their normal collection practices. Her attorney pointed out the fact that the law firm had a standard practice of collecting a percentage of any payments they convinced a delinquent debtor to pay although the balance of their work is paid on an hourly basis. A lawyer for Arc testified that it was very difficult to contact Samantha except during the daytime at work or in the evening at home. They had mailed registered letters to Samantha but she has refused to accept them. She also had no current email account.
The Arguments at Trial
Arc’s attorneys argued that the suit should be dismissed because the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act did not include attorneys under the category of debt collectors, and therefore, the Act did not apply to the facts of this case. Samantha’s attorneys argued that a law firm that did extensive collection work for Arc should be considered a debt collector under the act. They also argued that when a creditor misused the collection process in an unreasonable way, the act should apply regardless of the status of the creditor.
Questions to Discuss
- Who do you believe has the stronger argument, Samantha or Arc? Why?
- If you were the jury hearing this case, for whom would you decide? Why?
- Based on your reading of the text and ordinary common sense, do you believe that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act should apply to all attorneys or just to those attorneys who specialize in collection work?