Veteran dismisses his abusive practices suit against debt collector
By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 13, 2013
A disabled veteran who sued a law firm for allegedly telling him he “should have died” rather than collect disability payments has voluntarily withdrawn his lawsuit, according to federal court documents.
Michael Andrew Collier, a 100 percent disabled veteran, and his wife, Kim Collier-Dingman, withdrew their claims of abusive practices and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act following the case’s Aug. 5 dismissal by Arizona District Court.
Gurstel Chargo, the law firm, had been hired by a loan corporation to collect on Collier-Dingman’s defaulted student loan. In April 2012, the firm obtained a court order that required Desert Schools Federal Credit Union to block Collier-Dingman’s access to the $6,143.88 in her account.
But the money came from veteran disability payments, as a result of head and spine injuries that Michael Collier suffered while serving in the Army, according to court documents. At a 2012 hearing, a judge ruled that the funds were legally exempt from debt collection. Following the hearing, Collier said he called an unidentified legal assistant at Gurstel Chargo to find out how to collect his money. During the call, he claimed, he was told:
“[Expletive] you! Pay us your money!” the complaint stated, attributing the words to the unnamed legal assistant. “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.”
Harassment and use of profanity are illegal under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act. The call led the Colliers to sue for the sum in the account, along with punitive damages.
A spokeswoman for Gurstel Chargo declined to say what eventually happened to the $6,143.88. The Colliers were unavailable for comment at home Monday evening in Arizona.
Gurstel Chargo stated that it conducted a thorough investigation and found no one associated with the firm to be at fault.
By signing the dismissal, the Colliers agreed that whomever it was that Collier may have spoken with had no affiliation with Gurstel Chargo.