FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-19
Did you know that in addition to offering a fresh financial start, bankruptcy grants you broad protections against creditor harassment? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t; apparently neither did one of the country’s largest banks.
Bank of America Agents Didn’t Care About Bankruptcy, Violated Automatic Stay 38 Times
Financial giant Bank of America posted $2 billion in earnings during the last three months of 2011. But, that didn’t stop them from incessantly pestering one Florida bankruptcy filer over a few measly dollars in clear violation of the legal protections afforded to debtors.
When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect that essentially restrains creditors from contacting you. In fact, as soon as creditors know you’ve retained a Tampa bankruptcy attorney, they must address any and all correspondence directly to your lawyer.
After receiving notice of a debtor’s bankruptcy filing, Bank of America nonetheless called the debtor 38 times regarding outstanding obligations. Throughout the ordeal, the debtor’s bankruptcy attorney sent several letters demanding a stop to the illegal calls, with no effect.
Damning testimony at trial from Bank of America agents indicated that they didn’t really care about the bankruptcy. The judge was outraged, calling Bank of America’s conduct vexatious, wanton and oppressive. He slapped the bank with a $12,500 judgment — $2,500 to cover the debtor’s attorney’s fees, and $10,000 paid directly to the debtor for emotional distress.
Stand United With Your Attorney Against Creditor Harassment
Just because you owe someone money does not mean you forfeit your rights to fair treatment. Debtor’s prison were abolished nearly 200 years ago — but some creditors still try to make you a prisoner in your own home through incessant calls, letters and visits.
Fortunately, you don’t have to stand for this kind of harassment, and as evidenced by the case outlined above, creditors may be the ones who pay for it in the end. Florida judges are increasingly intolerant of creditors who refuse to abide by the requirements of an automatic stay.
Once you’ve retained a Tampa bankruptcy attorney, politely inform any creditors who contact you of this fact. You should provide the creditor with the name, address, and phone number of your attorney, and keep a record of doing so. If they still try to reach you, keep a record of the call, and also document any further calls or other forms of contact. If the calls continue, bring it to the attention of your attorney. Your attorney can then take action against the creditor for the harassment.
When it comes time for a bankruptcy filing, your attorney can help you deal with creditors who continue to call in flagrant disregard of an automatic stay — quite possibly to the tune of several thousand dollars.