Pressler & Pressler, LLP ("Pressler") targeted our client to pay the debt of another man with a nearly identical name. The actual debtor lived in a different county. He was sued and defaulted in a court lawsuit over the debt. The actual debtor had no relationship to our client. The debt at issue was a a $1,126 AT&T Wireless account, allegedly owed to Pressler's client, Palisades Collection, LLC.
Our client previously notified Pressler that he was the wrong man. Pressler's own phone record established that, in 2008, our client called Pressler and confirmed his different date of birth and social security number than that of the actual debtor. Pressler promised to remove his contact information from their records. Then, inexplicably, in 2011, Pressler sent to our client another set of legal papers threatening enforcement of a judgment stating that "money or property belonging to you may have been taken or held in order to satisfy a Judgment or Order which has been taken against you." In response to this second set of papers, our client became worried that Pressler would seize his assets despite Pressler's awareness that he was the wrong party.
In a December 15, 2011 judicial opinion, United States Magistrate Peck ruled that Pressler violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") by falsely representing the "legal status" of the debt.
Pressler attempted to sidestep liability with technical arguments, which the court found "unavailing." For example, Pressler argued that since our client first understood that he was not the actual debtor, he could not have reasonably believed that Pressler was attempting to collect a debt from him. Pressler actually argued that our client shouldn't have even opened mail addressed to him at his home because he should have known that it involved somebody else's debt. But the court rejected Pressler's arguments citing the fact that our client reasonably believed that Pressler could still enforce the judgment against him despite the mix-up of parties. In fact, he even visited his bank manager to assess Pressler's ability to seize his assets as threatened.
The court honored and cited many cases holding that the FDCPA was enacted, in part, "to eliminate the recurring problem of dunning the wrong person." Requiring a plaintiff to believe that he is the actual debtor would circumvent Congressional intent, the court held.
Pressler also argued that the FDCPA could not be available because of our client's inability to prove the "consumer" nature of the debt – used for family, personal, or household purposes. But the court rejected this argument finding that 1) Pressler had access to the information answering this question; and 2) the facts inferred that the debt was of a consumer nature. For example, Pressler specializes in "retail collections" as advertised in its website; the debt involved a $1,126 AT&T Wireless account; and the debtor was an individual residing in an apartment building. The court decided as a matter of law that the debt at issue was of a consumer nature.
If you have been sued by Pressler & Pressler, LLP and/or Palisades Collection, LLC, contact us today to assess your rights.