A woman says a Chicago-based debt collection firm improperly attempted to collect a medical debt she owed, under a payment plan she maintained she never agreed to, and even though she was never placed into collections.
And the woman has now filed a potential class action suit, believing the debt collector has behaved similarly toward others like her.
On Sept. 16, plaintiff Angelica Griffin, identified in the lawsuit only as an Illinois resident, filed her complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against the firm of Harris & Harris Ltd., of Chicago. The complaint also named as defendants several Harris affiliated companies, including Arnold Scott Harris P.C., Balta Strategic Initiatives and Harris & Harris of Illinois Ltd.
Harris & Harris collects debts on behalf of clients throughout Illinois and across the U.S., as well as for a number of local governments, including the city of Chicago.
Griffin is represented in her action by attorneys Berton N. Ring and Stuart M. Clarke, of Chicago.
According to the lawsuit, Griffin has owed a debt for unpaid bills to health care provider Northwestern Medicine since at least 2015 for medical services rendered to her child. At that time, the complaint said, Griffin set up a payment plan with Northwestern, purportedly agreeing to pay $50 per month until the bills were fully paid.
According the complaint, Griffin alleged she has never missed a payment under that plan, having made the minimum payment or more each month since October 2015 using “Northwestern’s online portal and received a confirmation of payment.”
Beginning in late August 2016, however, Griffin said she received three letters from the Harris firm indicating she was delinquent, and demanding she pay them $681. The letters offered her the opportunity to pay $50 per month to the Harris firm.
Despite receiving the collection letters, Griffin alleged she had never been notified by Northwestern of any problems with her payments, and had never agreed to any payment plan involving the Harris firm or its affiliated companies.
Griffin alleged she made her September payment to Northwestern Medicine, under the terms of her payment plan, and the payment was received and acknowledged by Northwestern without any communication indicating they had transferred her unpaid debt to any collection agency.
Griffin’s lawsuit asked the court to create three classes of additional plaintiffs, including anyone in the U.S. and anyone in Illinois who received similar communications from Harris & Harris indicating they owed unpaid debts under payment plans they had not agreed to, and demanding payment in similar fashion.
The lawsuit indicated the number of people who might be included in the classes could “number in the thousands.”
She alleged these activities violated federal debt collecting laws.
Under these counts, she has asked the court to award her actual damages, plus an additional $1,000. Should the court approve a class action, she asked the court to order Harris & Harris to pay at l east $500,000, plus attorney fees.
Further, the lawsuit alleged Harris’ affiliated companies were attempting to collect debts in Illinois without a license. While Harris & Harris Ltd. held a license through the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, the complaint alleged state records so no such license for the Harris & Harris affiliates. To press this claim, Griffin also asked the court to allow her to act as a relator, bringing action on behalf of the Illinois state government.