January 3, 2012
Debt collector's alleged tactics lead to lawsuit
There is an unprecedented lawsuit against Bank of America and a debt collector it hired. A Cape Coral woman wants them to pay up after she says they harassed her about her late husband's debts.
The plaintiff's attorney is already calling this a landmark victory for everyone who gets harassing phone calls from debt collectors.
While the case hasn't gone to trial yet, a Lee County judge ruled Linda Long can seek punitive damages against the bank and the debt collectors, West Asset Management.
Part of the lawsuit's goal to stop the debt collector's tactics.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff's attorney, Billy Howard of Morgan and Morgan, accuses the debt collectors of using "psychological warfare" on grief-stricken family members in the hopes of collecting the unpaid debts of deceased family members - debts the family members do not personally owe.
Long claims Bank of America's debt collectors harassed her, trying to collect on a $16,000 credit card debt left when her husband suddenly died of colon cancer.
We obtained this audio clip from one of the collection calls.
It begins right after the widow tells the debt collector she only has $2,000 left to her name.
Debt Collector: You don't think the family's in a position to help you out with that, and get this taken off your plate?
Long: I doubt it, but I could try to give you $2,000 just out of his life insurance, but then I won't have much left. But that's fine I can do that, anything to just get this off my head.
The defendants refused to comment on the pending litigation.
A jury will hear the matter at trial next August.
It's important to remember that debt doesn't go away when a person dies. It's their estate that is responsible for those debts.
If there isn't any money in the estate, typically it goes unpaid.
But - with few exceptions - family members are not personally responsible and do not owe the "deceased debt"
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