Couple says collection firms kept hassling them

By Kelly Holleran | May 14, 2009

CLARKSBURG – A Taylor County couple claim Chrysler Financial and two collection agencies continued to hassle them after they paid off their debt.

Betty and Richard Stevens filed a lawsuit against Chrysler Financial, MRS Associates and SRA Associates on March 20 in Taylor Circuit Court. The case was removed to federal court on April 24.

But the case against SRA could be dismissed if the company gets its way.

In the original Taylor Circuit Court complaint, the Stevens say they paid in full a prior loan made to them on Feb. 22, 2008.

However, after the Stevens paid off the debt, Chrysler Financial sent them a letter dated Feb. 22, 2008, saying they still owed $2,675.22. The couple received yet another letter in the mail dated June 23, 2008, in which Chrysler claimed they owed $1,120.20 on their previous debt, the complaint says.

Finally, on July 5, Chrysler wrote the Stevens a third letter stating their debt had been reduced to $0, the suit states.

On July 22, the Stevens advised Chrysler they were represented by an attorney regarding the debt, according to court records.

Chrysler handed the debt matter over to SRA, who sent the Stevens another letter dated July 25 demanding payment of $1,120.20. On Aug. 4, SRA called the Stevens in regards to the alleged debt, according to the complaint.

After SRA's attempts to collect the supposed debt, Chrysler turned to MRS for help in the matter, the Stevens say.

In an attempt to collect the $1,120.20 worth of debt, MRS sent a letter dated Dec. 19 to the Stevens. It called them once on Jan. 9 and three times on Jan. 10 with the same intent, according to the complaint.

The Stevens say Chrysler misrepresented a debt, which is a violation of West Virginia code.

The couple claims MRS and SRA should not have contacted them because the companies should have known they were represented by a lawyer. To contact someone who is represented by a lawyer is a violation of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and the Fair Debt Collection and Practices Act, according to the complaint.

However, SRA contends the complaint should be dismissed because the Stevens fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

SRA says it did not violate any acts because it was not aware the Stevens were represented by an attorney. The couple only told Chrysler, they say.

"Plaintiffs nowhere plead that SRA itself knew that Plaintiffs were represented by counsel when SRA allegedly contacted Plaintiffs," the suit states. "Thus, Plaintiffs have not alleged the factual predicate necessary to state their claims against SRA under the FDCPA and WVCCPA."

In the five-count suit, the Stevens are seeking damages of $1,000 for each violation of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and an additional $1,000 for each violation of the Fair Debt Collection and Practices Act and forgiveness of any debt they owe to Chrysler, plus costs, attorney's fees and other relief to which they may be entitled.

SRA removed the case to federal court because it involves federal questions that should be answered in a federal jurisdiction, the company says.

Julie Gower Romain of Fairmont will be representing the Stevens.

Christopher B. Denson and Aimee N. Daugherty of Steptoe and Johnson in Clarksburg will be representing SRA.

U.S. Federal Court case number: 1:09-CV-53

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