Can I sue for punitive damages regarding a collection debt?

UPDATED: Jan 9, 2012

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Can I sue for punitive damages regarding a collection debt?

I am a landscaper and a mobile home park owes a $1,500 invoice that is over 90 days late. I have tried numerous times to collect, while they give every excuse not to pay when the work has been completed. Because i can not get this money, I have fell behind on some expenses and have had to use my savings. Is it possible to sue for double in my case? This company is known for “duping” others.

Asked on January 9, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Rhode Island


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Punitive damages are not applicable in this type of case for debt collection.

You could charge a late fee, but it could not be double what you are owed.  Late charges would be a percentage of the amount owed.

You can file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court for breach of contract based on an account stated for the amount you are owed.  Your damages (the amount you are seeking to recover in your lawsuit) should include the amount you are owed plus the court filing fee and process server fee.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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