DETROIT (CN) - An abusive debt collector who told a sick woman she would be arrested and "beaten and raped on the way to jail" made her feel so bad she shot herself, she claims in court.
Michelle and Stephen Lothamer sued Community Health Center of Branch County, Coash LLC, Nationwide Collection Agencies, and Receivables Management Partners Holdings in Federal Court.
"This is a case of abusive collection efforts and the tragic impact that they can have on people's lives," the complaint states. "Plaintiff Michele Lothamer suffers from multiple sclerosis and severe depression. Plaintiff Stephen Lothamer suffered a work-related injury. Defendant Community Health Center believed, incorrectly, that Michele and Stephen owed them for charges that should have been properly paid by Medicare or Worker's Compensation. The hospital, and their collection agency, made repeated collection calls to the couple for this mistaken debt. The calls were of a repeated, excessive, and threatening nature.
"One day, one of the agents attempting to collect the debt called Michele and told her that she would be arrested if she did not pay the alleged debt immediately and that she would be 'beaten and raped on the way to jail.' In her depressed and fragile state, this was more than she could take. She took a rifle from the home, went to the shed out behind the house, and shot herself in an attempt to end her life. The physician treating her for her depression will testify that the repeated harassment from the collectors was, at least in part, the reason for her tragic attempt to end her life. The abusive, wrongful, and unlawful practices that lead to this tragedy are the topic of this lawsuit."
Mrs. Lothamer survived the suicide attempt, "but is now blind in one eye, and cannot speak clearly due to damage to her mouth," the couple say in the complaint.
They seek actual, statutory, treble and punitive damages for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Michigan Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, negligence, emotional distress and loss of consortium.
They are represented by Colin Nyeholt with Fixel Law Offices in Okemos, Mich.
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