When it comes to even the most meritless of lawsuits, collection agencies need to do their homework.
That sage advice was just one morsel in a huge helping of information from a panel of legal experts who spoke on a webinar yesterday, sponsored by WebRecon.
The panelists were:
- Katie Neill, compliance & litigation counsel for ARS National Services
- Kelly Knepper-Stephens, general counsel and chief compliance officer for Stoneleigh Recovery Associates
- Alicia McKeighan, chief compliance officer for Afni, Inc.
- W. Judd Peak, chief compliance officer for Frost-Arnett
A copy of the webinar recording can be accessed here.
When doing research after a lawsuit has been filed, collection agencies should look at not just the plaintiff in the lawsuit, but his or her lawyer, as well. Knepper-Stephens recalled conducting research on one attorney to see that the lawyer listed her company as a client on his website. Another time, the plaintiff was in jail at the time the infractions allegedly occurred.
“You need to think outside the box,” she said. “These facts will help you.”
It’s the really absurd theories that you think have no shot at holding up in court that often end up costing agencies a lot of money, McKeighan added.
Another key for collection agencies to not be labeled an easy target for plaintiffs and their attorneys is to make the process as difficult as possible, the panelists said.
“It’s not cheaper in the long run to cut a check every time,” a lawsuit is filed, Peak said. “If we made a mistake, we will make the client whole, but we’re not going to be an easy target.”
Agencies should require that all documents signed by the plaintiffs be notarized and that a copy of the plaintiff’s driver’s license be provided. These extra steps will ensure that the plaintiff is aware that a lawsuit is being filed. Knepper-Stephens recalled one suit where a plaintiff contacted the court two years after a settlement was reached, not knowing anything about the lawsuit in the first place.