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If You Test Me, You Will Fail

, , , , , , | Legal | CREDIT: MeowSchwitzInThere | July 3, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a legal nature. It is not intended as legal advice.

 

I’m a lawyer. A friend from school reached out to ask for help dealing with an ambulance company. Her parent had passed away in an ambulance while traveling between a nursing home and a hospital. The ambulance company sent my friend a bill that she could not afford to pay, and they were threatening to send the bill to collectors.

Me: “Not a problem, friend! Your parent’s estate is responsible for this bill. You don’t have a personal obligation to pay it, so they can’t send it to collections in your name. Let me just mail a short letter, and they should stop bothering you.”

I typed a very polite letter (“This person has legal representation, please cease any and all shenanigans, etc.”) and thought that was the end of this nonsense. Fast forward a few weeks when my friend sent a picture of another bill. Because the law is so cut and dry on debt collection, I assumed the ambulance company had some computer or human error which caused another letter to be sent.

Me: “No worries, friend. I bet someone messed up. Let me give them a call real quick and figure it out.”

Imagine a super cool montage of me working through a really long automated phone tree before talking to an actual human.

Me: “Hey, I’m [Friend]’s lawyer. I sent a letter asking you to stop sending her collections notices. She got another notice yesterday, so I just wanted to figure out why and how to make sure these letters stop.”

“Surely, this will be a quick call and we can all have a laugh about whatever error occurred,” I think.

Employee: “We will stop sending her bills when she pays.”

Me: “Umm… but that’s pretty illegal for, like, a lot of reasons. I can think of three right off the top of my head. So, instead of me getting all riled up and starting a lawsuit, can you just be cool? Pretty please?”

Employee: “It’s not illegal. Try to sue us if you want our lawyers to explain it to you.”

She made me say the phrase that I hate more than any other phrase IN THE WORLD.

Me: “May I speak with your manager, please?”

Employee: “Nope, I am the manager, and I’m also more familiar with the FDCPA than you. What we are doing is perfectly legal. Tell your friend to pay.”

The FDCPA (Federal Debt Collection Practices Act) sets out certain rules for what debt collectors can or cannot do. But some states, like Texas, have stronger rules which protect debtors. I didn’t know whether or not the ambulance company was violating any FDCPA things, but I knew FOR SURE (and when a good lawyer says, “for sure,” that means one hundred percent sure) that they were violating Texas DCPA.

Me: “Telling me I don’t know what I’m doing is rude. Hassling [Friend] after their parent passed away is shockingly rude. So, last chance before I hang up to angry-type a lawsuit and angry-file it. You don’t want me to sue on this, because I will win.”

Employee: “Please do, and we will see you in court. Have a nice day!” *Click*

She hung up on me. Oh, man, I was pissed — easily in the top ten of pissed in a professional context.

The whole conversation took about ten minutes. I have a fairly high tolerance for abrasive people; most people don’t look forward to talking with a lawyer, I get it. Still, sending collection notices to the wrong person AFTER that person buried a parent AND telling me I’m a bad lawyer was pretty mind-blowing.

I literally started working on this complaint as soon as I hung up. Because if I threaten to sue and you ASK me to follow through, my hands are tied.

I filed and the company was served, presumably followed by an actual lawyer reading the complaint and thinking, “Oh, wow, we f***ed up here.” A very apologetic lawyer called, and we reached an agreement to settle which included an apology to [Friend].

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