A federal law suit has been filed against a Minnesota-based law and collections firm after an employee with the firm told a disabled Army veteran he “should have died”.
According to Court House News, Michael Collier and his wife, Kim Collier-Dingman, are suing Gurstel Chargo after the firm garnished exempt disability payments.
In April of this year, Gurstel Chargo had $6,143.88 in Collier-Dingman savings account frozen so the firm could attempt to collect on a student loan Collier had defaulted on because of his disability. Collier took the firm to court and in May of this year, the judge ruled that the money had to be returned to Collier-Dingman's account. Because the funds were veteran benefits that she had received due to the neck and spine injuries Collier received in the military, the money was exempt from collection.
According to Stars and Stripes, Collier contacted Gurstel Chargo and asked when the funds would be returned to his wife's account. Collier was then told he would not get it back unless he sued. Collier persisted and a legal assistant began to use profanity, saying:
“[Expletive] you! Pay us your money! You can’t afford an attorney. You owe us. I hope your wife divorces [you]. If you would have served our country better you would not be a disabled veteran living off social security while the rest of us honest Americans work our [expletive] off. Too bad; you should have died.”
Collier and his wife filed suit against the law firm last week, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. According to subsection 806 of the act, a debt collector may not engage in "the use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader."
Gurstel Chargo issued a statement via their website which stated:
"We learned late last week of the lawsuit filed by Michael Andrew Collier and Kim Collier-Dingman. Gurstel Chargo takes the allegations made in the lawsuit very seriously and we have immediately launched an internal investigation to determine the facts. We are extremely disturbed by the allegations stated in the Complaint, as they are contrary to the policies, practices and values of our firm. We expect that all Gurstel Chargo employees fully comply with all state and federal laws, and we thoroughly train our employees to perform their job in a lawful and respectful manner. Under no circumstances does our firm tolerate the type of conduct alleged in the Complaint.
The Complaint states that the wrongful remarks were made during a telephone call. We have requested from the attorney that filed the Complaint the phone number of the phone that Mr. Collier was allegedly on, an approximate date on which the call occurred, whether the person who made the alleged wrongful comments was male or female, all in order to help us to get to the truth about what occurred. We have been informed by Mr. Collier's attorney that he is unaware of any of this information. To date, we have discovered no information to substantiate the allegations, but our investigation continues. Should these allegations prove to be true, we will take immediate corrective and disciplinary action."
No court date has been set as of publication.