Medical debt collector James A. Havassy and his company, Hamilton Law Group, are defendants in a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kanes office.
The firm was hired to collect medical debt by healthcare providers in Lehigh County and Northampton County, as well as the nearby area, but used the Filial Responsibility Law to allegedly intimidate family members into paying off relatives medical bills.
Kanes office filed for a permanent injunction against Havassy and the Hamilton Law Group, claiming their debt collection practices violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act. Along with requesting an injunction, the complaint seeks restitution for victims of the allegedly improper collection practices, as well as civil penalties.
Each violation of the law is subject to a $1,000 penalty, increasing to $3,000 for victims 60 years old and older. The complaint in part requests that the court determine the full amount of restitution to all consumers, pursuant to the Consumer Protection Law.
According to the complaint, while the defendants cited the Filial Responsibility Law when attempting to collect debts from family members, that law only applies in cases where public funds have been spent, and does not apply for regular debt collections.
Havassy is specifically accused of using "Relatives Liability Procedure - a state statute - to coerce payments from debtors relatives who weren't responsible for the debt. The language used in a dunning letter sent by Havassy is deceptive and confusing for the relatives, according to the complaint.
He states in the letter that relatives are "fully responsible for this debt." He cites the statute and snippets of a 2012 Superior Court ruling, HCRA v. Pittas, without fully explaining either, the civil complaint alleges.
At times, when relatives did not pay the debts, the lawsuit claims Havassy allegedly caused the relatives' credit to be negatively marked.
Havassy, who could not be reached for comment, 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, according to the complaint. He allegedly presented the liability as absolute.
The firm, the complaint said, was incorporated in 2012 as a debt collection law practice.