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Florida Woman Sues Debt Collectors, Alleging Harassment Caused Husband's Fatal Heart Attack

September 21, 2009

As Garden Grove fair debt collection lawyers, we frequently read about cases of debt collectors who step over the line. But a Florida case covered by Tampa television station WSTP on Sept. 16 had an interesting twist: allegations that harassment by debt collectors worsened a man's heart condition, causing his early death. According to the article Dianne McLeod is suing the debt collector over the death of her husband, Stanley McLeod, after a prolonged period of ten to 12 phone calls a day. Her attorney says the unkind and harassing calls kept Stanley McLeod's blood pressure and stress levels high, ultimately contributing to his death.

Heart problems were the beginning of Stanley McLeod's trouble as well. He suffered a massive heart attack that his wife said hurt his health so much that he had to stop working. As a result, he fell behind on his mortgage payments, even though Dianne McLeod was still working. Then the calls began. The couple saved answering machine tapes of some of the calls, allowing them to share one call where a debt collector sarcastically suggests that Stanley McLeod "get his act together" and use the medical helicopter that saved his life to drop off the past-due payment. Dianne McLeod said her husband would get very red in the face and short of breath during these calls, suggesting cardiovascular distress in someone already facing health problems.

The station made a longer report available by video:

McLeod is suing under a Florida statute that prohibits debt collectors from "willfully communicat[ing] with the debtor or any member of her or his family with such frequency as can reasonably be expected to harass the debtor or her or his family[.]" However, she and every other American is also entitled to sue under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which has similar anti-harassment provisions and many other provisions intended to protect debtors from deceptive, abusive or otherwise unfair behavior by debt collectors. They also allow victims of these illegal practices to collect financial damages for any harm the debt collectors caused -- which, in this case, allegedly includes a wrongful, avoidable death.

At Howard Law LLP, we routinely sue collection agencies guilty of unfair behavior under the FDCPA, as well as a similar California law called the Rosenthal FDCPA. Like the attorney in that article, our Paramount debt collection abuse lawyers have seen a sharp increase in clients calling about abuse, harassment and mistaken identity by debt collectors. Unfortunately, many consumers don't realize there are laws protecting them until they have already endured months of constant phone calls, public embarrassment or abusive language and threats. Victims of those illegal practices and many others may sue the collection agency to enforce their rights under the FDCPA, regardless of whether regulators have taken action. Our West Covina fair debt collection attorneys can help victims win back not only the costs the abusive behavior caused, but also $1,000 per violation and all attorney fees and court costs.

If you believe a debt collector has stepped over the line and you're ready to fight back, Howard Law can help. To consult with our attorneys at absolutely no cost and no further obligation, please contact us through our Web site or call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925.