Allen Jones filed a suit in 2008 against the Pennsylvania-based debt collection company Advanced Call Center Technologies, specifically including Alonso Rodriguez and Carlos Olivia- two of the company’s former employees, after receiving harassing phone calls over an $81 debt that he claimed to have already paid. The calls used excessive profanity and threatened physical violence against Jones as well and his wife. The lawsuit included various violations of consumer protection laws on debt collection such as:
invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, deceptive trade practices, and-against ACCT only-negligent hiring and supervision of one of the two employees.
Calls were also made as early as 6:30am and as late as 10:30pm, which a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
After failing to settle in mediation, the case went all the way to trial, which surprised Jones’
During the two-week jury trial, Malone and Frenkel presented a series of witnesses, each seemingly more damning than the previous one. They played videotaped depositions of four former ACCT employees (they were not parties to the litigation), who testified about a workplace gone wild, where debt collectors got high, made fun of debtors while they were on hold, and derisively referred to black debtors as “crows.”
attorney, Mark Frenkel, because of the overwhelming evidence against the collection agency.
One of the collectors, Carlos Olivia, originally denied making the harassing calls but later changed his story and said that it was “hard for him to shed his prison mentality while working for ACCT.” He was imprisoned for about 6 years total for drug related offenses, assault, and a DWI. However, after supervisors at ACCT found out about it, Olivia still kept his job. He is no longer employed with the agency, but Malone says that there is “no evidence that either defendant was terminated as a result of the allegations or the lawsuit itself.”
The jury showed no sympathy for Olivia, Rodriguez and ACCT and ruled in favor of Jones by awarding him with $50,000 for mental anguish, $143,000 in attorney fees, and $1.5 million in other damages. This case should serve as a reminder to companies to be careful who they hire and to lay down ground rules that illegal harassment tactics will not be tolerated. Consumers should also learn from this case that if you are being illegally harassed by debt collectors, you can take action and remedy the problem.
If you have had problems with being harassed by debt collectors and have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us through our website or by calling 205-879-2447.
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