Family Sues Racist Debt Collector For $854,389.81, Wins

Lazy, fat, inbred, black, pathetic, stupid, liar, thief, nigger. Those are some of the defamatory words Merchants Retail Credit Association (MRCA) used on Dolores Madduxes’ family when they tried to collect on a debt Dolores Maddux, who is dead, owed CitiFinancial. For these violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Madduxes sued MRCA and won $854,389.81. Even delinquent debtors have rights and it’s important to know them and call an attorney if they’re being violated.

Dolores Maddux, Gilbert Maddux, and Jeni Maddux v. Merchants Retail Credit Association (PDF)
Debt collector Merchants Retail Credit Association to pay $854,389.81 for FDCPA violations [Caveat Emptor]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Parting says:

    Now they can pay all of their debts!

    At least I hope that’s enough.

  2. Parting says:

    Damn, I forgot they have to ”collect” it first.

  3. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    Very nice!

  4. Falconfire says:

    The best part was the fact that, by law the family didnt owe anything to begin with. So not only did the debt collector buy off debt from the bank that by law was supposed to have been written off as a loss, but they now have to pay the family for being such dicks about it

    I like nothing more when debt collectors get served from both ends. I have no issues with banks collecting debt from people who owe, but it should be the banks themselves doing it, not scummy back room loan sharks who only pay a couple hundred bucks and then make thousands off it.

  5. Buran says:

    @chouchou: What debt? The woman was dead. Debt discharges when you die, unless there was a cosigner on the account(s).

  6. Tux the Penguin says:

    @Falconfire: Unless the estate of the dead woman did not pay all debts that should have been. My law, the estate must first pay creditors and then the rest goes to heirs. However, if the creditor is notified and does not make an effort to collect, the debt is discharged. Other debts are discharged upon death (such as student loans).

  7. Buran says:

    I’d like to see more lawsuits against companies that call customers liars (and worse) when they are justified. Owing money to someone (or not liking something someone does) isn’t an excuse to abuse them. We’ve all seen complaints here against companies that don’t hold up to their agreements, then call you a liar when you try to get them to do what they say they will. Under some circumstances, that’s got to be actionable. Someone who knows the law should fill us in on that.

  8. ancientsociety says:

    @Falconfire: “The best part was the fact that, by law the family didnt owe anything to begin with. So not only did the debt collector buy off debt from the bank that by law was supposed to have been written off as a loss, but they now have to pay the family for being such dicks about it”

    Consumers: +1
    Debt collectors: -100

  9. Eric says:

    It is too bad that people take on more debt than they can pay in their lifetime. The debt collectors were very wrong in this case, but I still never feel that bad for people who spend more than they should.

  10. UCLAJason says:

    Here is the Text of the Law that was violated so that you are not taken advantage of:

    § 1692c. Communication in connection with debt collection

    (a) Communication with the consumer generally. Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt–
    (1) at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer. In the absence of knowledge of circumstances to the contrary, a debt collector shall assume that the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is after 8 o’clock antimeridian and before 9 o’clock postmeridian, local time at the consumer’s location;
    (2) if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from the debt collector or unless the attorney consents to direct communication with the consumer; or
    (3) at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.

    (b) Communication with third parties. Except as provided in section 804 [15 USCS § 1692b], without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

    (c) Ceasing communication. If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except–
    (1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated;
    (2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
    (3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy. If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt.

    (d) “Consumer” defined. For the purpose of this section, the term “consumer” includes the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator.

  11. UCLAJason says:

    Also,

    § 1692d. Harassment or abuse

    A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
    (1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
    (2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.
    (3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3) of this Act.
    (4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.
    (5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
    (6) Except as provided in section 804, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.

  12. Unnamed Source says:

    One has to wonder why conduct like that of MCRA and it’s employees isn’t a crime.

  13. UCLAJason says:

    It is not clear to me from this article who owed what debt. If you have debt when you die your estate must pay off the debt (there are a few exceptions as has bee noted). Of course if you estate has nothing in it then the debt collectors get nothing – your family does not have to make up the difference.

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Eric: In before victim blaming… oh damn, never mind.

    For the record, is there anyone on this board who DOESN’T know that Debt Is Bad, or do we truly need to keep reminding each other?

  15. hollerhither says:

    I just read the court decision…MCRA’s conduct was beyond despicable.

    Attorney’s fees were close to $250K of the decision.

  16. Buran says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Not everyone makes a million bucks a month. Chances are that at some point in your life you’ll need to borrow money to do something. Are you then going to feel your head explode when one half of your brain sneers at the other half that’s just trying to get your needs taken care of?

  17. Kurtz says:

    @UCLAJason: I’m confused too. The original article doesn’t say anything about her dying. But it does say she disputed the amount of her debt, which is tough to do if you’re dead.

  18. llcooljabe says:

    What are the odds of MCRA declaring bankruptcy? 100%?

  19. Crymson_77 says:

    @hollerhither: They added 250k to the judgement specifically earmarked for the attorneys…nice judgement imo

  20. Kurtz says:

    @Kurtz: I just read the court decision…my bad…

  21. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    This reminds me of a couple stories. One was on Dateline or a similar news show. A college student got herself in massive credit debt, couldn’t cope with it, and took her own life. So the credit card companies and collectors went after the parents. Actually, they harassed the parents on a daily basis. And used the daughter’s death to taunt the parents into paying up. Truly disgusting.

    Another story was in the early cell phone days. I think the question was brought up, whether or not death was a valid reason for termination of a cell phone contract. And the answer at that time was, no. Your contract and any amount owed was the responsibility of your spouse or next of kin. If they wanted to cancel your contract, they’d have to pay the early termination fee. No pun intended.

  22. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Good.
    Good for her family & perhaps the debt collector will learn a lesson or two.
    A $854,389.81 lesson.

  23. kbarrett says:

    Chouchou:

    Collecting a judgment is half the fun.

    Look up “garnishment for information” sometime. You can haul some twit back into court and go over his finances with a fine-toothed comb. If he tries to ignore it, it’s bench warrant time.

  24. UCLAJason says:

    @llcooljabe: It is not that easy to get rid of a tort debt such as this.

  25. Buran says:

    @kbarrett: If it were me I’d be turning their tactics loose on them, although only as far as is actually legal. If what you do remains strictly legal, they can’t touch you, but within the law annoy them as much as possible.

  26. deadlizard says:

    Pass a debt to your decendants after you’re gone? I thought this administration was the only one doing it now.

  27. Parting says:

    @Buran: Ouch! Oops, read too quickly. Yep, once dead, unless there is something left in estate, debt pretty much ”dies” legally.

  28. Parting says:

    @Eric: If wouldn’t died, the debtor would be able to repay gradually.

  29. Parting says:

    @kbarrett: But will it cost another 200k ?

    And could the agency appeal the whole amount?

  30. Curiosity says:

    The collection of a debt actually depends on a variety of things, but I don’t think the point can be made enough that it is important for a consumer to have some evidence of the debt before they pay the debt or assume it. The word of the debt collector is rarely enough.

    For instance if this was a negotiable instrument (like a student loan), a consumer would be foolish to pay on the loan without looking at the instrument (or a copy). Similarly a bank would be a fool to pay on a written check without looking at the check and signature.

  31. SacraBos says:

    1) Get into debt.
    2) Default on debt.
    3) Get harrassed by collection agency.
    4) Sue collection agency.
    5) Profit!

    You know, it’d knock your FICO score down some, but given this judgement you might be able to make a tidy profit suing all these scummy collection companies… Seems these’s lots of abuse in this industry that someone could clean up on.

    Brings a whole new meaning to that book “Invest In Your Debt”.

  32. topgun says:

    I probably missed it somewhere in the PDF file, but how did the plaintiff prove the tactics of MRCA’s agent?

  33. UCLAJason says:

    @topgun: The PDF does not say except that there was a trial. Facts can be proven in a number of ways at trial including submission of evidence, testimony, etc.

  34. LynchMob1232 says:

    Moral of story….Don’t go into debt. While the creditor didn’t handle things professionally guess what would have happened if you didn’t pay back your debt 100 years ago.

  35. Bye says:

    @LynchMob1232:
    Perfectly appropriate moniker there…

  36. forgottenpassword says:

    good luck collecting! You’d think a debt-collecting agency would know all the ins & outs of finding ways NOT to pay a debt. Especially a crippling one like that!

  37. @LynchMob1232: “didn’t handle things professionally” is putting it mildly.

    Sounds like the moral of the story is don’t harass & threaten people or demand the pay more money than they owe.

  38. SubPrimeLender says:

    Interesting, what always confused me about Debt and dying was that if there was no “estate”. For example my father passed away 5 years ago and he had a car lease at the time of death on an audi. we just called the company and told him he passed, they asked about an estate and we said there would be none. This is beacuse all assets and debts (except the car lease) were in my mothers name also. The leasing company came and picked up the car and sold it at auction.

    We never had to do anything to move pass assets on becuse my mothers name was on everything. The leasing company never called again. He did not really have any other debts except a small mortgage we paid with life insurance

    I bet these people did not belive she was dead and kept calling , but still no excuse for the insults. I hate these debt people, they always call wrong numbers.

  39. HOP says:

    i gotta feeling the people are gonna wait quite long time for any money….that company is gonna appeal the crap outta the judgement………….

  40. SexierThanJesus says:

    @LynchMob1232:
    I think the moral of the story is actually, “Don’t use a racist epithet when collecting a debt.”

  41. MPHinPgh says:

    @Eric: It is too bad that people take on more debt than they can pay in their lifetime.

    So, if at the age of 45, I take out a mortgage (a fully conforming fixed-rate mortgage with 20% down), and then get hit by a bus, I’m a deadbeat?

    Don’t be a douche-bag. No where in the article did it say that the deceased was otherwise delinquent. For all we know, she was current up to the moment of her death. Quit making jusdgment calls and stick to what’s stated in the article.

    Sheesh.

  42. Xerloq says:

    @chouchou: They could just sell the debt to a zombie debt collector… better yet, sell it off in chunks. Divide it up into 1000 $854 chunks and sell it to 1000 predatory, zombie debt-collectors. Keep ‘em busy, especially when they can’t collect and begin reselling to other collectors.

    It would be a beautiful thing.

  43. LynchMob1232 says:

    “Dolores Maddux did not reside there, did not know the telephone number or address for Dolores Maddux, and that MCRA must not contact anyone at that number again”

    This sounds like a person who is very familar with debt collectors. Why didn’t she just say my step mom is dead, Ill send you the death certificate?

    Why do we continue to protect people who refuse to uphold their end of a deal?

  44. camille_javal says:

    @Tux the Penguin: Except the money from the suit is her family’s, not her estate’s.

  45. JayXJ says:

    @Eric: Yes, because everyone makes arrangements to pay off their debt before dying suddenly, or refuses to die before the end of that 30 year mortgage.

  46. RandomHookup says:

    @CumaeanSibyl:

    Debt is bad unless you are about to die with no assets. Consider it a parting gift.

  47. LynchMob1232 says:

    @JayP71: You don’t need to make arrangements, its simple liquidation priority. Debt holders get paid off first, if there is anything left over then the equity holders (i.e. family) gets it. It’s funny how people don’t know this.

  48. scampy says:

    So what is to prevent an old man on his death bed from buying a brand new Ferrari for his grandson and then he dies a week later so the grandson gets it free? Sounds shady to me

  49. huadpe says:

    @scampy: The Ferrari will be reposessed to pay the debts. Dead people’s debts are wiped out AFTER the debt owners get first dibs on your estate. Also, knowing exactly when you’re going to die is…hard.

    That said, if you have terminal cancer and can get a big refi, then give the money away before you die, then the bank issuing that mortgage is out the cash. Once you kick the bucket, they’ll be taking all your assets until the debt is cleared.

  50. JiminyChristmas says:

    @topgun: Here’s my synopsis for you:

    It appears that the Maddux family began keeping contemporaneous records of the calls at some point in the process. If you look through the judgment all of the incidents are noted with date, time, and length of call. Other people witnessed the calls as well; i.e.: they were present when the Madduxes were called…many, many times.

    I think debt collector’s fate was probably sealed when the Madduxes retained a lawyer, the lawyer contacted MRCA, and they went around the lawyer and still kept contacting the Madduxes. That is just colossally stupid.

    I’m surprised that the douches at MRCA aren’t subject to some sort of criminal charge. The judgment included evidence that MRCA once called Gilbert Maddux at work about 15 times in one day. Sorry I can’t be more specific but I lost count while reading the judgment. There must be some point where you cross the line from violating rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act into criminal harassment or stalking.

  51. rjhiggins says:

    So none of you holier-than-thou, never-assume-debt people have car loans, or mortgages? And of course you will never contract a terminal illness that runs up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Or perhaps have your house destroyed by a flood, tornado or other “Act of God” not covered by insurance.

    What a bunch of creeps.

  52. Bryan Price says:

    I have one nit about the article, Delores is evidently still alive. That’s what I get from reading the original article and what I can read from the PDF, although at the end, I was skimming more than anything so I may have missed it.

  53. qitaana says:

    @Bryan Price: Nope, she’s desceased. In the PDF, check the first sentence of the “Findings of Facts” section: Dolores Maddux was a natural person who is deceased.

  54. qitaana says:

    @qitaana: Deceased. I seem to have briefly forgotten how to spell.

  55. hypnotik_jello says:

    I’m really confused here… I read that entire court docket and it doesn’t say anywhere Delores is dead?

  56. hypnotik_jello says:

    @qitaana: Was she deceased at the time the debt collector started calling though, that’s the question.

  57. qitaana says:

    @hypnotik_jello: You don’t have to read too far to learn that she’s dead: It’s the first sentence in the first paragraph of the findings of fact, on the first page.

    Having read the litany of the findings of fact, she was apparently alive when they began calling.

    Quoting lynchmob:

    “LYNCHMOB1232 AT 06:07 PM
    “Dolores Maddux did not reside there, did not know the telephone number or address for Dolores Maddux, and that MCRA must not contact anyone at that number again”
    This sounds like a person who is very familar with debt collectors. Why didn’t she just say my step mom is dead, Ill send you the death certificate?
    Why do we continue to protect people who refuse to uphold their end of a deal?”

    You’re quoting from the findings of fact, which were written by the judge (or his clerk.) It’s more likely that Jeni Maddux testified that “They called, I said she didn’t live here, I don’t know where she is, and not to call here for her.” The judge translated that into legalese when writing the findings of fact. And then wrote a little macro for that sentence, ‘cos it appears in many, many of the paragraphs in the findings of fact.

  58. spryte says:

    I love how so many people here are ignoring the whole racist-debt-collector thing just to harp on the fact that someone owed some money.

    Debt, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. As others have pointed out, if you buy a home or a car and are not extremely wealthy, most likely you will be making payments to a bank or some other institution. That is technically debt. When debt becomes a bad thing is when you cannot afford to keep up on the payments, not when you simply have payments to make, FFS.

  59. elisa says:

    read the judgment. Dolores seems to currently be deceased, but she was alive at least part of the time that they were calling. They called her, her husband, and her stepdaughter OVER 100 TIMES

  60. elisa says:

    (whoops I pressed enter too early)

    over 100 times, several in a day. around 30 pages in the report! Violated various debt collection laws: obtained credit reports illegally, did not provide proof of the debt (they disputed the amount), did not stop calling when the family told them to stop, harassment at work, kept contacting them even after they told them they had a lawyer, threatened them physically (“4 guys from Topeka”), etc etc.

    They also kept calling people not responsible for the debt (husband and daughter). Shady shady shady…CitiFinancial probably doesn’t care though.

    Even if the debt was legit, that doesn’t excuse breaking the law in trying to collect. They refused to provide proof of the debt’s legitimacy though.

    And this is not even including the racist, derogatory names they called them.

    I hope Dannell Benning (the debt collector) gets fired and goes into debt, and then gets harassed by his former co-workers! And I hope MCRA goes bankrupt shortly AFTER paying the Madduxes…

  61. trollkiller says:

    I heard a story once where the debtor would taunt the collection agent until they cussed or called him names. He would record the calls and after he got them to use profanity he would file a complaint and get the debt discharged. Sounds like a good plan except I am too honest to do that.

    Reading the court ruling it is clear this collector stepped way over the line. I am glad they got spanked hard.

    I have been dealing with a debt collector that refuses to prove the validity of the debt. I don’t know the entity that is saying I owe them, I can’t find it in the white pages or even Google. The collector can’t or won’t tell me what the debt is for. Thankfully when I told them I would not be paying until they provided me with the who, what, where and when, they stopped calling. Now I am just waiting for the next collector that bought the debt to call so I can go over it again and again and again.

  62. econobiker says:

    Trollkiller,
    You need to document, in writing (return receipt/ect), to the collector, that you have asked for the name and details of the institution supposedly owed. Send a couple of these letters (which means the collector has to give you his address but you use a pobox or similar for return address) and if they don’t inform you, you can file against the collector. Heck, they might have the wrong person/same name… And it might help if you record their calls also…

  63. crlarkin says:

    That company has offices in my building, I can’t wait until I see their employees in the elevator, more dirty looks than usual will abound.

  64. trollkiller says:

    @econobiker: I am waiting until after Christmas to get a recorder. They have the right guy, after weeks of dealing with them I found out it has something to do with the time I took my daughter to the emergency room. The emergency room bill has been paid in full.

  65. makingsense says:

    Take emotion out of the situation. In any event where an individual
    is dis-respected it is wrong. In the collection industry the number of
    successful collection calls and proper handling of the collection
    process far outweighs the few collectors that provide a bad name for
    the industry. NO I am not a collector but I have been in the credit
    industry for over 10 years. As a consumer that has debt, car loans,
    credit cards, mortgage etc…the good old American dream of borrowing
    to sustain our lifestyle, I am glad there is the collection industry.
    If they were not there to recover the $billion plus dollars annually
    from people that over extend themselves or have had a financial hiccup
    and need help in getting the account satisfied, it would cost each one
    of us more money in interest charges and fees to cover the losses. It
    is the same situation as employee theft or shoplifting. We, the
    consumer pay for the losses somewhere. So, although we may believe
    collection agencies are bad, tehy do every consumer a service. With
    that said, there are bad people in all walks of life such as catholic
    priests, corrupt politicians, police officers etc…just because there
    are a few bad apples does not make every one bad. If you ever fall
    behind on an account and find youself in collections just address the
    account. Work out arrangements that can fit your ability to satisfy
    your debt, but remember tehre are laws and if they violate them, make a
    formal complaint.

  66. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Buran: Dude, chill, I’m on your side. Did I really put it that badly? All I meant is I’m sick of the standard Debt Is Bad lecture on Consumerist and I really think we should be taking it as given at this point.