A Jackson County jury’s whopping verdict against a debt collection firm sends exactly the right message.
Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC, was soulless in its pursuit of Maria Guadalupe Mejia Alcantara of Kansas City. It harassed and frightened her, even though Alcantara hadn’t generated the debt that the company was seeking repayment on.
The company refused to listen to Alcantara and her lawyers when they said Portfolio was going after the wrong person. It balked at providing information when the case got into court.
Jurors considered all of this when they slammed Portfolio with $251,000 in damages and $82 million in punitive damages.
The case began more than two years ago, when Portfolio threatened to take Alcantara to court over a credit card debt of $1,130.
Fortunately, she was able to find lawyers to help her, first at Legal Aid of Western Missouri and later with Slough Connealy Irwin & Madden. These advocates recognized that a company was preying on a low-income immigrant woman because it thought it could get away with it.
As it turned out, it couldn’t. Whatever its outcome upon appeal, the verdict should cause Portfolio and other debt collection agencies to cease with abusive tactics and do a better job of identifying their targets.