Can I file more than one suit in small claims for multiple violations of the same statute committed by the same collection agency?

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Can I file more than one suit in small claims for multiple violations of the same statute committed by the same collection agency?

On 3 different occasions this year a collection agency attempting to collect a debt reported the debt to the 3 credit bureaus. There were 3 separate reports filed (1 to each bureau). All 3 reports however were concerning the same debt. Nonetheless, state law provides a remedy of up to $5,000 per violation. Does each false report count as a violation? If so, can I file each violation as a separate cause of action (either under the “Primary Rights Doctrine” or merely from the fact that each violation occurred independently)?

Asked on October 7, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Interpretation of state laws and statutes and their applicability to your set of facts is really best done by an attorney in your area.  What you are really asking is if the reporting to 3 separate bureaus of the same debt counts as 3 separate acts or if it is counted as one act becauseit is the same one debt, correct? Now, I am not really familiar with the practical application of the Primary Rights Doctrine in California but it is, as I understand it, centered around the harm suffered by the plaintiff rather than the particular theory of law upon which the lawsuit is brought.  As I also understand it it precludes a plaintiff from bringing an action based upon multiple causes of action for the same harm suffered.  So if you are focusing on the harm suffered by the reporting then you would only get one bite of the apple here. And remember: you need to show that you had damages as a result of the reporting.  Good luck.  


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