A District Court judge in Ohio has awarded a plaintiff more than $70,000 in damages and attorney fees after a default judgment was entered against a defendant in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case that accused the defendant of not properly identifying itself as a debt collector in conversations between the two and for allegedly using derogatory language toward the plaintiff.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Pastian v. International Credit Systems can be accessed by clicking here.
Judge Sharon Ovington of the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio awarded the plaintiff $1,000 in statutory damages, $10,000 in emotional distress damages, and $60,310.86 in attorney’s fees.
After fighting the lawsuit for several years, a default judgment was entered against the defendant in May 2021. Judge Ovington had previously granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiff on two of the five counts in her complaint.
By not referencing itself as a debt collector and for making misrepresentations about the plaintiff incurring “jail time” if the debt was not paid, Judge Ovington awarded the plaintiff the maximum statutory damages under the FDCPA of $1,000. For allegedly threatening jail time, as well as allegedly calling the plaintiff a “brat” and a “bitch” during two of the calls between the plaintiff and the defendant, Judge Ovington awarded the plaintiff $10,000 in emotional distress. The plaintiff had been asking for $25,000 in emotional distress damages, but Judge Ovington lowered the amount because the plaintiff the “overtly harassing conduct was limited to two telephone conversations and there is no evidence that Plaintiff required medical treatment or that her marriage suffered.”
Judge Ovington also agreed with the plaintiff that the amount sought to cover her attorney’s fees was reasonable. “Although that figure may seem high for what appear to be straightforward FDCPA claims that resulted in a significantly lower award of actual damages to the successful Plaintiff, the Court notes that this matter remained active on this Court’s docket for more than four years, due in large part to Defendant ICS’s resistance to resolution and multiple changes of counsel,” Judge Ovington wrote. “Accordingly, the volume of attorney’s fees is largely a product of Defendant’s own conduct.”