Jury Awards 1.26 Million for Debt Collector Abuse

A federal jury in Santa Fe, New Mexico awarded $1.26 million against the Denver collection firm of Farrell & Seldin. The case was tried by Tulsa, Oklahoma consumer protection lawyers, David Humphreys and Luke Wallace with Local Counsel Rob Treinen of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Farrell & Seldin spent over three years pursuing the plaintiff, a Navajo woman named Lucinda M. Yazzie who has the identical name as another Navajo woman who doesn’t pay her bills and didn’t pay the subject Target credit card debt. For reasons that no one could really explain, a collector at Farrell & Seldin early in the collection process deleted the debtor’s SSN and telephone number in the computer record and substituted the plaintiff’s. From then on, despite protests from the plaintiff as well as her employer, Farrell & Seldin ignored numerous notices, red flags, and opportunities to correct the situation and pursued the plaintiff mercilessly, including two attempted garnishments and a lien on her property that as of July 29, 2011 they still hadn’t bothered to release and was still a matter of record in the county records.

The verdict was $161,000 in actuals under the FDCPA, NM UDAP, and NM tort law — all emotional distress other than literally a few dollars for copying costs and the like — and $1.1 million in punitives for the NM tort for unreasonable debt collection.