It was reported this week that Maria Guadalupe Mejia of Missouri will be awarded close to $83 million after a court decided that she was unjustly prosecuted by debt collectors for money that she did not owe. The jury decided that Portfolio Recovery Associates LLC had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and maliciously prosecuted Mejia, for debt that had nothing to do with her. At the end of the trial, Mejia was awarded $82,990,000 in punitive damages.
“On February 6, 2013, my husband came to my place of employment and handed me the lawsuit Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC had served him with at our home. They wanted me to pay them over $1,000. I did not owe this company any money. My husband and I were already struggling just to keep our children fed and the lights on. The lawsuit terrified me. I feared they would take my house and I feared they would arrest me. I was very shocked that they sued me for one year and three months even though I never had the credit card. And after they dismissed the case, they said they might sue me again. I am so thankful to the jury for giving me and my family justice. This should not happen to anyone and I hope the jury’s verdict will stop Portfolio from doing this to others. I am grateful that my name is totally cleared and my family and I can move on,” Mejia said.
Portfolio Recovery Associates is infuriated, and said in a recent statement that they plan to appeal the ruling.
“This outlandish verdict defies all common sense. We hope and expect the judge will set aside this inappropriate award, and we plan to file motions to make that request formally in the near term. Any fair reading of the facts of this case makes plain that a verdict of this size is not justice by any means, and cannot stand,” spokesman Michael McKeon said in a statement.
The company initially sued Mejia in February 2013 for accruing credit card debt, however, the debt did not belong to her but a man with a similar name who lived in Kansas City, Kansas.
“This company has gained a reputation for take no prisoners, ‘If you mess with us we’re going to take you all the way, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on this litigation, you’re going to have to go all the way to trial. And so, among consumer lawyers, they are known to be very aggressive in litigation and to not stop; even when they’re wrong, they’re just not going to stop,” Gina Chiala, one of Mejia lawyers said.
John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.