I recently had a pre-discovery conference with a debt collector my firm is suing. This is a conference generally required by federal judges. Normally it is done within a couple of weeks of the defendant filing an answer. Many times, this is the first real contact I have with a debt collector or their attorneys aside from their silly threatening letters. Today, I know this defendant well. We have litigated much of the facts of this case before and with the same Plaintiff. You might ask why we are suing for the same thing. Well….they just won’t stop. They won’t even try a new tactic. This particular debt collector has repeatedly contacted our client despite knowing that my firm represents him. I asked them today what it would take to make them stop harassing our client. Their response…. ”Pay they money.” (or something very close to that). With very few exceptions, Federal law is clear that debt collectors are not allowed to contact consumers when they know that consumer is represented by an attorney for that debt. They contacted him during the middle of our previous suit. They even contacted him again during this suit.
I asked the debt collector why he thought this was justified. His response was basically that our client should pay whatever he claims is owed. To be clear, this is not a credit card account where someone went to Vegas and had a good time. It wasn’t for the purchase of an unnecessary vehicle or even a ludicrously exaggerated student loan. This was for medical care for a disabled senior citizen. Our client went to the doctor and did as he was told. The doctor decided what medical care was necessary with little to no input from our client. Was that medical care necessary or were the doctors churning their bill as some have been trained to do? Doesn’t matter to this debt collector. He should pay whatever he is told to pay or the harassment will continue.
But wait, the doctors should be paid right? Well…..they were paid. Medicare made them. Medicare also reduced their exaggerated bill to the amounts the doctors had agreed to. But still, this wasn’t enough for the doctors and the debt collector. Why stop at a few hundred dollars, when you can get another $20 or $30 by squeezing it out of someone who is on a fixed income and trying to survive? Does it matter if that means he doesn’t eat a couple of times this week? Those BMWs don’t fill up themselves and gas is expensive for doctors and debt collectors too.
Consumers victimized by this debt collector and doctors’ offices really have two options to make the harassment stop. First, you can pay whatever they say you owe. Ignore the fact that most medical bills are inaccurate. You just have to pay it or they will keep harassing you. Or, you can just not go to the doctor. Even if you can afford that visit, you really don’t have control over what tests they will order or other services you might have to pay for. Best just to stay home and die I guess. Oh….there is a third option, and this debt collector is experiencing that right now. And they will continue to experience it every time I catch them violating consumer’s rights. Why is so difficult to treat people with dignity and respect?