Court: plaintiff’s wages were improperly garnished
When a debt collector or law firm is ordered to collect on a debtor’s unpaid bills, the company will use any means possible to achieve that goal. Often, cash-strapped debtors are powerless against these forceful methods of debt collection utilized by large companies, even when their attempts to collect are in violation of state or federal laws.
One example of this is bank garnishment. In Georgia and throughout the country, private companies may not garnish Social Security income for the purpose of paying a debt. However, banks are not always aware that the money in an account came from Social Security, and will authorize its garnishment. By the time the debtor goes to court seeking a reversal of the improper garnishment, several weeks or even months may have gone by, potentially placing that debtor in a devastating financial situation.
Similarly, incorrect information may lead to the wrong person being garnished entirely, despite his or her continued assurances that the collector has the wrong information. This is what a plaintiff alleged in federal court when she filed a lawsuit against a law firm and a credit card company over their repeated attempts to garnish her wages to repay the debt of someone she had never met.
The improper wage garnishment when, in late 2006, Target National Bank assigned a delinquent credit card account to The Law Offices of Farrell & Sandlin, a law firm that specializes in debt collection. A later investigation revealed that, after the debt was assigned, a law firm employee had changed the Social Security number in the company’s system to that of a completely different person. The firm then went after that person – the plaintiff.
The law firm attempted to garnish the plaintiff’s wages in 2007 and 2009, but was unable to do so either time when the plaintiff’s employer told them they had the wrong person. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit in federal court. Last month, a federal jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her over $1 million in damages.
Hopefully, this case will serve as a warning to debt collection agencies who may be improperly garnishing wages or bank accounts.
Source: Collections & Credit Risk, “Woman Awarded $1.26M In Collection Wage Garnishment Case,” 31 July 2011