Judge Tells Debt Collection Firm To Pay Stranger $115 For Dragging Him To Court

Last week, a Brooklyn judge ordered strongly suggested that the law firm of Pressler & Pressler, “one of the biggest in the collection industry,” pay a day’s worth of income to the man they falsely accused of owing an unpaid debt. To encourage the firm to do the right thing, Judge Noach Dear scheduled a sanctions hearing but told the firm’s lawyer, T. Andy Wang, that he might drop it if they pay up.

Pressler & Pressler relied on a database to find the man, Mark Hoyte, and refused to believe he wasn’t their guy even after he gave them his Social Security number and date of birth.

“Why didn’t you check these things out before you take out a summons and a complaint?” Judge Dear asked. “Why don’t you check out who you’re going after?”

Mr. Wang said that Pressler & Pressler used an online database called AnyWho to hunt for debtors.

“So you just shoot in the dark against names; if there’s 16 Mark Hoytes, you go after without exactly knowing who, what, when and where?” Judge Dear asked.

At this point, the lawyer–probably because he knew he was turning into the butt of an awesome legal story–started attacking Mr. Hoyte for not doing enough to prove that he wasn’t the owner of the debt.

“Did you send them proof, as in a copy of your Social Security number with only the last four digits visible?”

“No,” Mr. Hoyte said. “They didn’t ask for it.”

“But you didn’t send any written proof of the claim that it was not you?” Mr. Wang said.

“I told them on the phone it’s not me,” Mr. Hoyte said.

Mr. Wang appeared outraged.

“Hello, Collections? The Worm Has Turned” [New York Times] (Thanks to Andy!)