A recent Florida Court decision was like a big right hook from consumers into the jaw of the debt collectors. In an unfair debt collection case, a consumer sues a debt collector for harassment or some other unfair debt collection practice.
The Plaintiff is the consumer, and the Defendant is the debt collector. Less than 5% of people being harassed by a debt collector ever do anything about it. Florida Statute §768.79 allows a defendant (debt collector) to place pressure on a Plaintiff to settle by making an offer for judgment/proposal for settlement. If the Plaintiff refuses this offer and then wins a judgment that is at least 25% less than the offer or there is a judgment of no liability then the Plaintiff becomes liable for the Defendants attorney’s fees and costs.
So, not only do very few consumers actually go after the debt collectors but when they do, they have to worry about an adverse judgment and the payment of the debt collector’s attorney’s fees and costs. Obviously, this strategy could cause the consumer many sleepless nights, and more importantly, make them believe that filing a lawsuit is the worst thing that they could ever do.
This statute is often a strategic tool used by defense attorneys to keep the Plaintiff from having their day in court due to the potential risk. However, the Florida Consumer Practices Act provides the Plaintiff attorney’s fees and statutory damages if they prevail in court. A Hillsborough Court judge recently ruled that Florida Statute §768.79 is not applicable to proceeding under the FCCPA, holding that the purpose of the Consumer Practices act is to encourage litigation on behalf of consumers who are being harassed by collectors.
This is a win for the consumers in the State of Florida as attorney’s representing these clients will be able to continue doing so on fee-shifting basis without having to addresses the inherent chilling effect that accompanies an offer for judgment/ proposal for settlement.
If you are being harassed by a debt collector and the harassment has risen above a few phone calls each and every day, please feel free to call The Dellutri Law Group, P.A. At The Dellutri Law Group, we sue abusive debt collectors.