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This unfair debt collections act case involves an illegal threat by a finance company to put an elderly woman in jail for a debt that she did not owe, on a mobile home she did not own. A jury awarded substantial actual and punitive damages. The case comes to this court principally on the excessiveness of actual damages, and the absence of the predicate requirements necessary to impose damages against the corporation, as opposed to the overzealous employee.

The case began when an employee of the finance company, GreenPoint Credit Corp. (“GreenPoint”), made a demanding phone call to Ninfa Perez (“Mrs. Perez”). The substance of the phone call was that Mrs. Perez was woefully behind on her mobile home payments, and that she must pay up or face the consequences. The call was not only disturbing to Mrs. Perez, it was also mystifying. She owned no mobile home and had no idea what the representative was talking about. Her attempts to explain this to the representative fell on deaf ears. He gave her the company’s phone number and told her to pay the bill. Mrs. Perez was at a substantial disadvantage in this and subsequent dealings with GreenPoint. She was 72 years old, did not speak or understand English, and had a medical history of anxiety disorders. She had lived in the same house all her life, and her sole source of income was a modest monthly Social Security check. She had a daughter, Zulema Torres (“Torres”), who lived across the street and cared for her mother. Mrs. Perez did not own a mobile home, and there was no evidence she had ever owned one.

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