Nelson and Joyce Coniglio of Tampa, Florida were tired of receiving a flood of automated phone calls (over 700) from the Bank of America after they fell behind in the mortgage payments in 2009. They got a lawyer, filed a lawsuit against the Bank, and they recently got a judgment of $1,051,000 against the bank. Their lawyer, Billy Howard, discusses the case.
The award is unprecedented. Howard explains that “every illegal call is worth $1,500.” It may sound too good to be true, but it’s the federal law. A debtor has the right to ask a creditor stop calling. The Coniglios wrote letters asking the bank to stop, but the calls continued.
The judge in this case did what other judges are doing, Howard says, and that is holding banks liable for violating the federal law regarding harassing phone calls. Howard points out that it is also illegal for creditors to make robocalls to cell phones, and each of those calls carries a $500 fine. Even if someonehas given permission originally for such robocalls, the permission may be revoked at any time. “You don’t need to use any magic words to do it.”
The bank’s claim is that the bank was trying to help the Coniglios avoid foreclosure. But Howard says that the best way to have helped his clients would have been to stop the calls.
The bank has several options at this point. They can write collection letters, and it can file a lawsuit to collect the debt. Howard opines that a lot of American consumers don’t really understand that they have rights or how to enforce those rights.
William Peerce Howard is a member of Morgan & Morgan. Mr. Howard was born and raised in Florida. From an early age he has been active in politics, beginning with Bob Graham's campaign for Governor. Upon graduation from law school, Howard opened his own practice, focused on consumer protection law, and obtained a million dollar verdict in a complex civil theft trial. In 2008, Howard obtained a punitive damage jury verdict against a national debt collector, one of the few such awards in the country. . The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.