In May, 2015 a Missouri trial jury awarded an $82.5 million verdict against Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (PRA). At the time, a spokesman for PRA said the verdict was “outlandish… defie[d] common sense” and that PRA “hope[d] and expecte[d]” the verdict would be set aside by the trial court. Then in September, 2015 PRA entered into a CFPB Consent Order, for violating federal consumer protection law in its collection practices (something it did not admit to doing in the consent order). Now, in a significant 9 page written opinion issued on November 4, 2015, the Missouri trial court upheld the $82.5 million jury verdict, stating:
Defendant testified through its attorneys and corporate representative that its business model did not include independent investigation of an accused’s claim she did not owe the debt at any point from purchase of the debt to litigation – even if legitimate concerns were raised. It maintained it is the wrongly accused’s burden to dispute the debt, prove it is not theirs, and provide to Defendant personal information. Defendant testified the fault for the present litigation was Plaintiff’s. Defendant made no apologies, testified its policies were sound, and no changes were anticipated.
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The Court finds the harm to Plaintiff was the result of intentional malice and not mere accident. This Defendant owns debt in all 50 states – 750,000 accounts in Missouri, 37,500 of which are in litigation. It shows no remorse. It’s business model is irresponsible and preys against the financially vulnerable. This Defendant does not respect the Court’s rules. And, especially reprehensible is Defendant’s use and abuse of our court system to harm the Plaintiff. Under the facts presented in this case, the Court cannot find that the jury’s punitive damage award – equating to half of Defendant’s net profits for one year – is grossly excessive.