Jury Awards $161k to Plaintiff After Lawyer Tries to Collect on Settled Debt

A jury in the state of Washington has awarded a plaintiff $161,000 after he sued a collection agency and a law firm for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Washington Collection Agency Act, and the Washington Consumer Protection Act for allegedly attempting to collect on a debt that had already been settled.

The plaintiff, Russell Brandt, had an unpaid credit card debt. One of the defendants, Columbia Credit Services, filed a lawsuit in 2005 against the plaintiff, who claims he never received service of the complaint. A default judgment was entered against the plaintiff and the defendant garnished the plaintiff’s bank account. When the plaintiff learned of the garnishment, he contacted the defendant and entered into a settlement with the agency to pay off the majority of the remaining debt. The plaintiff settled the debt in 2006.

In 2008 and 2009, the collection agency sent letters to the plaintiff, attempting to collect on the debt. The plaintiff showed the proof that he had paid the debt and the defendant said it would update its records each time. Then, in 2012 and 2013, a law firm — the other defendant in this case — filed a writ of garnishment against the plaintiff. The plaintiff contacted the owner of the debt, who said the check signed by the plaintiff had not been properly endorsed and there was no company with the agency’s name at the address on the settlement agreement.

Even after a motion and order directing the plaintiff to appear before the court so he could be questioned under oath, where the court agreed it appeared that the debt had been settled, the defendants continued to try and collect on the judgment.

A one-day trial earlier this week and one day of deliberations by the jury were enough to convince them that the plaintiff had made his case, and award him $161,000 in damages.

A copy of the verdict in Brandt v. Wales & Woehler can be accessed by clicking here.


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