New Mexico State Court
A Santa Fe federal court jury has awarded a woman $1.26 million in damages from a debt-collection law firm that pursued her for three years in a case of mistaken identity.
Denver-based Farrell & Sandlin twice filed to garnish the wages of Lucinda Yazzie of Farmington — the second time despite assurances from her employer that the collectors had the wrong person — and didn’t back off until Yazzie filed her federal court lawsuit, said Rob Treinen of Albuquerque, Yazzie’s attorney.
“They had been on notice that they had been pursuing the wrong person for three years,” Treinen said. “They just would not stop coming after her.”
Treinen said the jury awarded Yazzie $161,000 in actual damages for emotional distress and $1.1 million in punitive damages.
The Target credit card debt that the firm was trying to recover — the responsibility of another person named Lucinda Yazzie, with a different Social Security number, address and other identifiers — was about $5,000, Treinen said…
But Farrell & Sandlin filed a complaint in state court for money due against the wrong Lucinda Yazzie in April 2007 and obtained a garnishment of wages writ against her employer, a Farmington energy company. Yazzie couldn’t solve the problem with calls to Farrell & Sandlin, but the garnishment was dropped when Yazzie’s boss filed an answer saying she was the wrong person…
U.S. District Judge Bruce Black, in a pretrial order in the case, wrote that Farrell & Sandlin admitted that the Social Security number of the actual debtor “was changed in the Law Firm’s records by an unauthorized act of a former employee” and as a result the firm went after the wrong Lucinda Yazzie.
Target National Bank, the financial arm of Target stores, had provided the firm with correct information, the judge’s order says.
Aside from the egregious incompetence of the debt collection firm – Farrell & Sandlin – there is nothing that matches the sheer stupidity of the bureaucratic hacks working in the state court system who also had access to the fact that wrong information was being used to harass Ms. Yazzie.
And still they issued an order to garnish her wages – twice! They should all be fired and forced to find an honest job.