A Bethesda debt-collection law firm will pay $105,000 in total statutory damages to approximately 400 Marylanders as a part of a class-action settlement for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander granted preliminary approval for the settlement against Protas, Spivok & Collins LLC on Jan. 19. A hearing to finalize the settlement is scheduled for September.
The firm collected debts for its client LVNV Funding LLC, which was not a licensed collection agency in Maryland, after those debts were declared void in 2013, according to attorney Phillip R. Robinson.
Robinson, of the Consumer Law Center LLC in Silver Spring, was part of a team that won a $38.6 million jury verdict against LVNV last year on behalf of a nearly 1,600-member class. LVNV has appealed that decision.
After obtaining the judgment, attorneys filed FDCPA cases against Protas, Spivok & Collins and other collections law firms. The other cases are still pending.
“The big issue here is if you’re a debt collector, you need to make sure what your client’s asking you to do is correct, that the debt actually can be collected,” Robinson said Friday.
The lawsuit involved state and federal debt collection claims, and the federal law does not require knowledge that a debt is void, according to Robinson, but the complaint does allege facts that could have put the firm on notice.
The $105,000 settlement will provide the approximately 400 class members with a gross settlement amount of $262.50 each, according to court documents. The class members will also be entitled to recover funds that were collected from them in the state court action against LVNV.
Robinson said there are still thousands of debts on the books that have been voided, and part of the goal of the lawsuits is to have the judgments wiped so they are not referred to collections agencies or affecting people’s credit.
Class members in the federal suit will be notified of the settlement within 45 days of the court’s preliminary approval and given the opportunity to exclude themselves from the class or object.
Protas, Spivok & Collins is represented by James Dickerman of Eccleston and Wolf P.C. in Hanover. Dickerman was not immediately available for comment Friday.
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Amy Jernigan & William Bonilla et al. v. Protas, Spivok & Collins LLC
Court: U.S. District Court
Case No.: 1:16cv03058
Judge: Ellen L. Hollander
Outcome: Settlement for plaintiffs of $105,000
Event: 2007 to May 2016
Suit filed: July 20, 2016
Settlement: Jan. 19, 2017
Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Scott C. Borison of Legg Law Firm LLP in Frederick and Phillip Robinson of Consumer Law Center LLC in Silver Spring
Defendant’s attorney: James Dickerman of Eccleston and Wolf P.C. in Hanover
Count: Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act