Worst Debt Collector in the World?
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - An 85-year-old woman claims a Wells Fargo debt collector harassed her by sending police to her house on the bogus claim she had threatened to commit suicide, and that the false 911 call cost her $1,055 in medical bills.
Anne Sessions sued Wells Fargo Bank, Wells Fargo Card Services, and Charles Gajewski, in Multnomah County Court.
Sessions says she made regular payments to her Wells Fargo credit card for years, but fell behind on payments in 2010.
She claims Wells Fargo called her repeatedly to threaten legal action.
"The words and tone of the collection calls were intended to, and did, make plaintiff feel like a deadbeat when, in fact, she had always paid her bills until experiencing financial difficulties, as so many others have during this time," the complaint states.
Sessions says she worked out a payment plan with Wells Fargo, and the collection calls stopped until February 2011, when Wells Fargo employee Charles Gajewski called her on a Sunday.
"During the course of this call, Defendant Gajewski addressed plaintiff in a contemptuous tone stating words to the effect that you know you owe the money and 'you should just pay it,'" the complaint states. (13)
As Gajewski "continued to badger her," Sessions says, she told him "that he and defendant Wells were harassing her and that such harassment was bad policy, and 'could have serious consequences' including leading people to abandon their homes or even potentially committing suicide. Throughout the conversation plaintiff told defendant Gajewski that she was concerned about other people who might be enduring the same kind of harassment she was facing." (Italics in complaint."
Sessions says Gajewski "immediately seized on plaintiff's statement that defendants' harassment could have consequences and he began engaging in a highly inappropriate line of questioning."
The complaint continues: "Defendant Gajewski asked plaintiff if she was considering suicide. Plaintiff replied, of course not. Defendant Gajewski continued to prod: 'But ... if you did, how would you do it- hurt yourself?' Plaintiff responded that she currently had no intention whatsoever of committing suicide, but that, in the abstract, she might consider it some years down the road, if, for instance, she was diagnosed with a terminal disease. Defendant continued to ask plaintiff additional inappropriate questions about how she might kill herself."
Sessions says she told Gajewski "that she intended to continue to pay defendant Wells once per month as agreed until she had funds to fully catch up on the three payments that were in arrears," but that Gajewski was "offended and angered" because she would not promise him a specific date.
Within half an hour, Sessions says, three police officers arrived at her door and told her that "Gajewski had called 911 and reported that plaintiff had made multiple suicide threats during the collection call, and requested that police be sent to her house."
The complaint continues: "The police, relying on the information in the 911 call provided by defendant Gajewski, "forcibly took plaintiff to the local hospital emergency room, over her objections. When they arrive at the hospital police told the hospital personnel that plaintiff was suicidal."
Sessions says she was held at the hospital for "several hours," and released when they realized she was not a threat to herself or others. The hospital and a doctor then sent her bills for $1,055 for the unnecessary hospital visit, she says.
"(O)utraged that defendant Gajewski's false report had added $1,055 to her debt obligations, since plaintiff did not have any medical or other insurance," Sessions says, she called Wells Fargo to complaint.
She asked to speak with Gajewski and his co-worker told her he was not there. When Sessions told the co-worker about Gajewski's 911 call, she says, "the employee laughed loudly and plaintiff could hear her calling out something like 'Hey Chuck ... that woman you called the police on got taken to the hospital by the police.' Plaintiff heard loud laughter in the collections center and the female employee proceeded to congratulate defendant Gajewski on how effective his call had been in a way that plaintiff was certain to hear." (Ellipsis in complaint.)
Sessions seeks $250,000 in non-economic damages for unlawful trade practices, unlawful debt collection practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, privacy invasion, false light, and the cost of her medical bills.
She reserves the right to seek punitive damages.
She is represented by Jay Derum with Clarke Balcom Law.