Thanks to Barron & Newburger for spotting this … The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld a ruling for the plaintiff that ordered the defendant in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case to pay $51,000 in damages and $88,000 in attorney’s fees after a jury ruled the defendant misrepresented that a lien had been placed on the plaintiff’s house and falsely threatening to foreclose on the property if the plaintiff failed to pay the alleged debt.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Morton v. O’Brien can be accessed by clicking here.
Laura L. Morton took out a $200 loan from a check cashing facility in 2003 and never repaid it. In 2016, the defendant sued Morton and obtained a default judgment for the unpaid debt. A year later, the defendant ran a skiptracing report for “Laura Morton.” Based on the results of the report, the defendant sent Laura B. Morton — the mother of Laura L. Morton — a letter informing her that the creditor had secured a judgment lien against her house and was in a position to foreclose. The defendant allegedly sent the letter knowing that Laura B. Morton was not the Laura Morton he was looking for.
The two Mortons called the defendant and informed him that the letter was sent to the wrong Laura Morton and asked to remove the lien, a request the defendant allegedly refused. The plaintiff sued the defendant for violating the FDCPA and after a judge denied a motion to dismiss, a jury found for the plaintiff and awarded damages and attorney’s fees on the grounds mentioned above as well as on the grounds that the company that acquired the check cashing facility had relieved the defendant of his authority to collect on its debts in 2012. After trial, the defendant filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to prove actual or statutory damages, which was denied.
The appeals court made short work of both of the defendant’s arguments, ruling that he waived or forfeited his ability to challenge the verdict because he filed the wrong type of motion after the trial was over, and that there was nothing improper in how the district court judge determined the attorney’s fee award.