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Judge Rules Against Bank Of America For Harassment


Bank of America Corp. and a debt collector it hired to go after deceased customers' debts violated state law by repeatedly calling a Florida woman about paying the credit-card bill of her late husband, a Florida state-court judge ruled this month.  Judge Keith R. Kyle in Lee County, Fla., found that collection attempts by West Asset Management, an Omaha, Neb., firm working on behalf of Bank of America, amounted to harassment.

The ruling clears the way for the plaintiff to get punitive damages from the collector, a unit of West Corp., and Bank of America, which is the second largest U.S. bank by deposits. A civil jury will determine the size of the award next year.

The case could set a precedent across the U.S. and discourage lenders from using collectors to get money from surviving relatives on debts left behind by the deceased, according to other state-court judges.

Bank of America and other major U.S. lenders hand over accounts of the deceased to firms specializing in death-debt collection. The collection firms then zero in on family members who they think might agree to pay some of what the dead person owed even though they have no legal obligation to do so.

In a 2010 investigation of the industry, the Federal Trade Commission found that some death-debt collectors flout federal and state laws by duping relatives into thinking that they have to pay the debts of the deceased. Surviving family members typically have no legal obligation to pay unless they co-signed a loan.

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Reader Comments (4)

Why didn't she just tell them to fuck off and to never call her number again, instead of letting it go this far?

Dec 31, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBig M
True, if you snail-mail the collection agency (or whomever) a letter instructing them to cease contact by phone, they are required to do so.
Dec 31, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterB W L
Any judgement for damages will be so low in proportion to the Corporate Profits of the illegal policy that the policy will continue. No Corporate employee will be imprisoned, no Board Member stripped of his property or placed upon probation, and most unfortunately neither business will have their Corporate Charter dissolved.
Dec 31, 2011 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterThebes
What kills me is they say that they go after family they think will pay money that they aren't responsible to pay. I see a bunch of law suits coming to recoop that money, that was basically extorted from them ILLEGALLY. I think all people working for these collectors should be thrown in jail for ( I can't think of the words ) something to do with endangerment of the elderly. I also think we need to do away with all lawyers and the bullcrap laws they have gotten made law, that only benifit them and not the unknowing ( like the elderly)
Jan 3, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered Commenternapanascarnut

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