Maria Mejia from the state of Missouri in the United States has recently been awarded a world record $83 Million Dollars. The award follows an illegal attempt by US debt collection agency Portfolio Recovery to recover a credit card debt of $1,000 that did not belong to Mrs Mejia. A Kansas City jury found the debt collection company guilty of the malicious prosecution of Maria Mejia over a debt that belonged to another woman who had a similar name.
Debt Collection Agency accused of malicious prosecution
Mrs Mejia, aged 51, explained in a statement: “I was served with a lawsuit by Portfolio in 2013 and even though I knew I did not owe them any money, it was a terrifying experience. At the time we were struggling just to keep the lights on and the children fed. I thought they were going to arrest me and was worried we would lose our house.”
The company sued Mrs Mejia shortly after the dry cleaning shop where she had worked for fifteen years closed leaving her unemployed. The action lasted a total of 16 months and was based on a debt accrued by credit card purchases that she did not make.
Mejia’s lawyer, Gina Chiala explained: “The debt collection agency in question, Portfolio Recovery is one of the largest debt buyers in the US, they have a well-earned reputation for their take no prisoner’s attitude and recovery methods. They are known by lawyers for aggressive litigation and refusal to cease actions. Even when it is clear that they are in the wrong and have made a mistake they do not stop. I believe that Portfolio Recovery staff were simply trying to wear our client out by keeping the lawsuit active, forcing her to attend multiple hearings and along the way ignoring several court requests to exchange evidence in discovery requests, all in the vain hope that our client would be become so distressed she would pay a debt she did not owe, and therefore their own mistake and culpability would not be uncovered. Our client broke down in a flood of tears as the verdict was announced, explaining the debt collector scared the like out of her and her family. ”
Debt Collector faces record fine
The debt collection agency was ordered to pay $250,000 for violating the Collection of Debt Fair Practices Act and a further $83,000,000 in punitive damages, following the Jury’s guilty decision on the basis that they had maliciously pursued and prosecuted the mother of 3 children.
The spokesman for Portfolio Recovery, Michael McKeon claimed his company dropped the case as soon as it became clear that the debt did not belong to Mrs. Mejia, a claim disputed by Maria and her lawyer.
A judge confirmed that Portfolio had abused the integrity of the discovery process, while acting in undoubted bad faith when violating Court orders on numerous occasions.
In reply McKeon said: “This award defies common sense and is totally inappropriate. This, by any means is not justice, you only have to examine the facts of the case to realise that this award cannot possibly stand further perusal. The vastly inflated magnitude of the award beggars belief, and not only opens the floodgates to further spurious awards, but also impacts on the financial ability of our operation to recover legitimate debt cases.
The award may help others dealing with bogus debt recover claims
In conclusion, if the award of damages is finally upheld in the Supreme Court 50% of the $83 Million award will eventually be deposited to the compensation of victims fund operated by the Attorney at Missouri’s office general. The remaining 50% would be forwarded to Mrs. Mejia, with an estimated $7,250,000 paid out to lawyers in legal fees.
On a final note, Maria commented: “I just hope this award prevents other families from suffering at the hands of debt collection agencies as we have.”