Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced that her office filed a civil complaint against James Havassy and his firm, Hamilton Law Group, P.C., a medical debt collection company.
Hamilton Law Group was hired to collect debt for healthcare providers in Pennsylvania and, according to the complaint, violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), as well as the Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL), and the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA).
According to the announcement, Havassy is accused of using the state statute commonly known as Relative’s Liability Procedure to coerce payments from debtors’ relatives, who were not responsible for the debt. As alleged, the language used in a dunning letter sent by Havassy is deceptive and confusing for the relatives.
Havassy claims the relative is “responsible to care for and maintain or financially assist” the debtors. The letter also states that relatives are “fully responsible for this debt.” Havassy cites not only the statute but snippets of a 2012 Superior Court ruling, HCRA v. Pittas, without fully explaining either, the civil complaint alleges.
Among other things, Havassy is also accused of negatively marking the credit history of relatives who have not agreed to pay.
The complaint states that Havassy also is accused of failing to show indigent status of the debtor in question or a determination that the relative being contacted was not indigent and could pay the debt, which is his legal responsibility. He allegedly presented the liability as absolute.
The civil complaint, filed in Commonwealth Court, in part requests the court determine the full amount of restitution to all consumers, as well as civil penalties, pursuant to the Consumer Protection Law. Each violation of the law is subject to a $1,000 penalty, which will increase to $3,000 for victims 60 years old or older.
Havassy was asked by the Office of Attorney General to immediately cease and desist from the above alleged conduct.