An elderly Oregon woman has filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo, alleging that a bank employee harassed her by telling the police she was threatening suicide — and running up a $1,055 hospital bill in the process.
The 85-year-old plaintiff says that she fell behind on her Wells Fargo credit card payments in 2010. She eventually worked out a payment plan with the bank and all the collection calls stopped, at least until Feb. 2011.
That’s when she says she received a call from a Wells Fargo staffer who, according to the complaint, talked to her about her outstanding debt, “in a contemptuous tone stating words to the effect that you know you owe the money and ‘you should just pay it.’”
The plaintiff says that as the WF staffer “continued to badger her,” she mentioned that “such harassment was bad policy, and ‘could have serious consequences’ including leading people to abandon their homes or even potentially committing suicide.”
She says she made it clear several times throughout the phone conversation that she was not talking about her own state of mind, but that others in a similar situation might be despondent to point of self-harm.
According to the complaint, the caller prodded the plaintiff about whether or not she was thinking about suicide. At one point, when she assured him that she wasn’t thinking about killing herself, he is alleged to have asked, “But … if you did, how would you do it — hurt yourself?”
On the actually relevant topic of paying off her debt, the plaintiff says she told the caller that “she intended to continue to pay defendant Wells once per month as agreed.” But this only “offended and angered” the caller.
Not long after the call was over, a trio of police officers were knocking on the plaintiff’s door, telling her that they had received a 911 call saying she had made multiple suicide threats over the phone.
From the complaint:
The police, relying on the information in the 911 call provided by defendant… forcibly took plaintiff to the local hospital emergency room, over her objections. When they arrive at the hospital police told the hospital personnel that plaintiff was suicidal.
After being checked out by hospital staff and deemed a non-danger to herself, the woman was released, but not without being handed a bill for $1,055 because she doesn’t have insurance.
She says that when she attempted to call Wells Fargo to complain, the person she spoke to told her the original caller was not there, but when she told this employee her story about the police and the hospital visit, she alleges, “the employee laughed loudly and plaintiff could hear her calling out something like ‘Hey Chuck … that woman you called the police on got taken to the hospital by the police.’ Plaintiff heard loud laughter in the collections center and the female employee proceeded to congratulate defendant… on how effective his call had been in a way that plaintiff was certain to hear.”
The lawsuit, filed against Wells Fargo and the employee, seeks $250,000 in damages for unlawful trade practices, unlawful debt collection practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, privacy invasion, false light, and the cost of her medical bills.
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