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Small claims attorney fees

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#1
What is the name of your state?Indiana. I had temporary tv service while my home was repaired from fire, when I moved in the boxes were already there per an agreement with the condo association, they were charging me for the boxes I finally got them to remove the charge for those. I owe $200 to the actual company, they have turned it over to an attorney/collector which has added their fee of $500 to the claim. Am I liable to pay the attorney fee or just the actual bill I owe? I know I should of paid it but, my husband passed and I was financially not able to. I do not dispute the actual bill just not sure about their attorney fee.
 


quincy

Senior Member
#2
What is the name of your state?Indiana. I had temporary tv service while my home was repaired from fire, when I moved in the boxes were already there per an agreement with the condo association, they were charging me for the boxes I finally got them to remove the charge for those. I owe $200 to the actual company, they have turned it over to an attorney/collector which has added their fee of $500 to the claim. Am I liable to pay the attorney fee or just the actual bill I owe? I know I should of paid it but, my husband passed and I was financially not able to. I do not dispute the actual bill just not sure about their attorney fee.
You will be responsible for paying not only the outstanding bill but for paying the reasonable costs and fees incurred by the company in their attempts to collect from you what is owed.

You can negotiate with the company to try to reduce this amount. I suggest you read the "sticky note" posted at the top of this forum on negotiating with a debt collector. It was written by TigerD, a former debt collector-now attorney, and has some helpful tips.

Good luck.
 
#3
You will be responsible for paying not only the outstanding bill but for paying the reasonable costs and fees incurred by the company in their attempts to collect from you what is owed.
Sorry to disagree but taken literally that is not an accurate statement of law as it is only when allowed by statute or authorized by the agreement generating the debt that the creditor is entitled to recover "costs and fees incurred" in addition to the principal obligation.

Moreover, it is a violation of federal law for a debt collector to threaten to collect, attempt to collect or collect "any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law". (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - Section 808 - 15 USC 1692(f)(1)
 

quincy

Senior Member
#4
Sorry to disagree but taken literally that is not an accurate statement of law as it is only when allowed by statute or authorized by the agreement generating the debt that the creditor is entitled to recover "costs and fees incurred" in addition to the principal obligation.

Moreover, it is a violation of federal law for a debt collector to threaten to collect, attempt to collect or collect "any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law". (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act - Section 808 - 15 USC 1692(f)(1)
I agree with your disagreement. :)

My thoughts for some reason took me to a court and a judgment, of which neither has yet happened.
 
#7
QUOTE="adjusterjack, post: 3562056, member: 649682"]I'm betting that the TV service contract has an attorney fee provision.[/QUOTE]

Its immaterial whether or not the service contract provides for the award of reasonable attorney fees. Not if the dunning or the validation letter states that "the amount owed" includes such fees or any potential penalties, costs, interest, etc., that cannot be assessed and taxed short of a judgment.

In such cases (as seemingly true here where the communication from the collector appears to arbitrarily demand of the debtor attorney fees in amount of $500) the collector has misrepresented the actual debt owed and is thus in violation of 15 USC [sections] 1692f and 1692g of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act!
 
#9
I'm betting that the TV service contract has an attorney fee provision.
Its immaterial whether or not the service contract provides for the award of reasonable attorney fees. Not if the dunning or the validation letter states that "the amount owed" includes such fees or any potential penalties, costs, interest, etc., that cannot be assessed and taxed short of a judgment.

In such cases (as seemingly true here where the communication from the collector appears to arbitrarily demand of the debtor attorney fees in amount of $500) the collector has misrepresented the actual debt owed and is thus in violation of 15 USC [sections] 1692f and 1692g of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act!
I'm the last person to come to the defense of a collection agency but I read both those sections and there is nothing in there prohibiting a collection agency from demanding the $200 debt + $500 in costs/fees (etc) if the contract had an attorney fee provision nor do I find anything in those sections that requires a judgment.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#10
I'm the last person to come to the defense of a collection agency but I read both those sections and there is nothing in there prohibiting a collection agency from demanding the $200 debt + $500 in costs/fees (etc) if the contract had an attorney fee provision nor do I find anything in those sections that requires a judgment.
As long as a debt collector does not fudge the facts of the debt - claiming, for example, that the debt itself is $700 rather than $200 debt + $500 attorney costs - the debt collector is not violating the FDCPA, this if the collector is allowed under the original contract and/or state law to collect interest, fees or other charges in addition to the original debt.

But, even IF the debt collector has violated the FDCPA, the debt if valid in the first place is still a valid and collectible debt.

The debt doesn't go away, in other words, even if that particular debt collector might. :)

It appears the debt collector in question here separated the amount of the debt from the add-on fees.

TigerD (attorney) offered some good tips on negotiating with a debt collector, in the "sticky note" posted at the head of the debt collection forum.
 
#11
As long as a debt collector does not fudge the facts of the debt - claiming, for example, that the debt itself is $700 rather than $200 debt + $500 attorney costs - the debt collector is not violating the FDCPA, this if the collector is allowed under the original contract and/or state law to collect interest, fees or other charges in addition to the original debt.

Sorry, but your "example" won't fly.

The reason it won't work is because your $700 figure includes elements of potential debts (attorney fees and costs) that can only be predicted and are not due and payable unless and until ascertained and awarded by a court of law. In other words, the $700 is not presently due and owing and hence a fictitious figure serving as the "the amount of debt"! Language which is the gravamen of the legislation.

Any pre-judgment indication by the collector to the often guileless debtor that such prophesized figures which have yet to accrue but are alleged to constitute "the amount of the debt" inferring that they are presently due and owing is one of the shady practices that the FDCPA is designed to curtail and hence it is violation of 15 USC 1692g to represent them as being a current obligation!

Analogous is Veach v. Sheeks, 316 F.3d 690 (7th Cir. 2002). There the attorney bill collector Sheeks did precisely what you propose. His validation letter incorporated penalties and fees as obligations presently due and payable. The 7th Circuit Court awarded judgment in favor of the debtor Veach concluding that by stating the amount of the debt as $1,050, Sheeks took it upon himself to hold Veach liable for penalties that had not yet been awarded stating:

"The "amount of the debt" provision (1692g (a)(1) is designed to inform the debtor (who, remember, has a low level of sophistication) of what the obligation is, not what the final, worst-case scenario could be."

Also is Bernstein v. Howe, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5284 (S.D. Ind.)

"The Bernstein court concluded that no attorney’s fees were actually owed by Bernstein at the time Howe sent his letter. At most, the credit card agreement provided the potential for a future award of attorney’s fees in the event that First Card incurred attorney’s fees as a result of pursuing "legal proceedings" against the debtor. Relying on Veach, the court held that a debt collector violates the FDCPA by representing that potential for fees as a part of the debt owed." (Emphasis added)
 
#13
And yet the debt will still be owed.

Here is a link to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/rul...dings/fair-debt-collection-practices-act-text

Read section 808(1).
And yet the debt will still be owed.

Here is a link to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/rul...dings/fair-debt-collection-practices-act-text

Read section 808(1).
Perhaps you should try reading the Act.
 
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