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Collection agency settles lawsuit

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

New Castle business Atlas Collections has agreed to pay $31,000 to end a class-action lawsuit that claimed the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Henry County resident Tonya Haskett filed the federal lawsuit in August. Haskett claimed that Atlas’ form debt collection letter violated the FDCPA.

She also asked the court to recognize the suit as a class-action matter, including other people who received the same form letter.

Haskett’s attorneys argued that the letter Atlas used did not properly advise people that any disputes had to be in writing and then sent to Atlas’ attorney, James Millikan.

The suit also claims that the initial debt collection letter did not inform people that disputes had to be in writing in order for them to obtain verification of the debt or the name of the original creditor.

The law suit said that, because of these omissions, Atlas used “unfair and unconscionable means to collect a debt,” which is a violation of the FDCPA.

Atlas Collections and Millikan’s law office denied that their actions violated the FDCPA in any manner. They also denied that they had any liability to Haskett or anyone else who received the claim letter around the time she got it.

In December, the court ruled that anyone Atlas contacted with the form letter from Aug. 2, 2016 to Dec. 20, 2017 qualified to be a part of the class-action suit.

Of the 1,400 people that fell into that class, 223 responded to claim their share of the $6,500 the court ordered Atlas to pay. That equates to $29.14 each.

Any portion of the class-action settlement that goes unclaimed will be distributed to Indiana Legal Services, Inc. 

Atlas was also ordered to pay Haskett $1,000 and to pay her attorneys a total of $23,500 in legal fees and to cover the costs of sending notices the members of the class action.

Part of the settlement states that Haskett and the other members of the class action agree they will never file suit against Atlas or Millikan Law Office again. Atlas and Millikan agreed to the same terms, that they wouldn’t go after the class members in court.

The Courier-Times previously reported on another lawsuit alleging that Atlas Collections violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Jodi and Zachary Matthews and Veda and Jerry Ramey filed suit against Atlas in 2016 in Henry County courts. The case was moved to federal court and then back to the local court.

Atlas has filed motions for partial summary judgment against two of the plaintiff’s claims in that case. 

Attorney Robert Duff said that case is set for a hearing June 20.