CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has overturned a $75,000 verdict against a debt collector alleged to have violated state law.
On Oct. 22, the court ruled Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Burnside, Jr. should have sent Aimee Neeley Figgatt’s lawsuit against Green Tree Servicing to arbitration.
Figgatt alleges Green Tree violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act by attempting to contact her after it was notified she was represented by counsel.
Burnside had ruled that since the American Arbitration Association wouldn’t accept a claim by Green Tree for “debt collection arbitration,” making an arbitration provision unenforceable.
“(B)ecause the AAA moratorium does not apply to (Figgatt’s) claims against Green Tree, it is an available forum in which to arbitrate those claims,” a 5-0 memorandum decision says.
“Therefore, the circuit court was in error in concluding that the arbitration provision at issue was unenforceable because the AAA would not also accept a claim by Green Tree against the respondent.”
Figgatt and her now ex-husband took out a loan for a home in 2000 with Greenpoint Credit. The servicing rights and duties were later transferred to Green Tree.
Burnside wrote that Figgatt was “almost continuously delinquent” on her payments. Green Tree called her 615 times over the course of 44 months from 2007-10 and called third parties 20 times.
On Dec. 16, 2009, Figgatt told Green Tree she was represented by attorney Ralph Young of Hamilton, Burgess, Young & Pollard. Green Tree called her directly 28 times after that date.
Burnside concluded in August 2012 that Green Tree was in violation of the WVCCPA. He said the 28 calls made after Dec. 16, 2009, and the 20 calls to third parties deserved the maximum statutory penalty.
The total statutory penalty would have equaled $222,974. However, Figgatt stipulated that she would not seek more than $75,000 when she filed her complaint.
That figure represents an amount that could trigger federal jurisdiction over the case.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at email@example.com.