A western Pennsylvania woman filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Target Corp. and its law firm over the discount department store chain's debt collection practices, saying false affidavits were used to go after customers who allegedly owed money to a subsidiary bank that issues the store's credit cards.
Vicki Higgins' lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of thousands of Target customers who have repaid Target National Bank debts, paid legal fees, lost lawsuits or had their credit scores damaged as a result of debt collections using the allegedly false affidavits.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a court order to stop the debt collection practices alleged by Higgins, who lives in Westmoreland County, east of Pittsburgh.
Jessica Carlson, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target, said the company had not been served with the lawsuit and had no comment.
Officials with Target National Bank of Sioux Falls, S.D., and the chain's law firm, Patenaude & Felix APC, did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press. The suit also names a Target official identified only as Adam Grim, who signed the debt affidavits, a notary public who attested to the documents, and several "John Doe" defendants _ one being an unknown "officer at Target Corporation who authorized the implementation of the false affidavit factory" described in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said Target National Bank sued Higgins over an alleged credit card debt in April 2009, then dropped the case five months later. The lawsuit doesn't say how much Higgins allegedly owed, and her attorney, Jeffrey Suher, did not immediately return a call for comment.
But the lawsuit contends Higgins incurred unspecified attorney's fees that she should not have had to pay because of the collection action which, she claims, was supported by the fraudulent affidavit.
Higgins and similarly situated customers are entitled to compensation because, she claims, the notarized debt affidavits prepared by Grim claim that he has personally reviewed the customers' records on behalf of the bank. But the lawsuit contends that in Higgins' case, "Grim didn't review any records prior to allegedly executing the affidavit."
Higgins also argued in the lawsuit that believes other Target customers were treated in a similar fashion.
Instead, the affidavit was one of hundreds rubber-stamped by Grim which, the lawsuit contends, is illegal because the affidavits are used to coerce customers, or convince courts to enforce the debt, under the false impression that the financial information contained has been reviewed by the bank.
"TNB took the false and misleading affidavits and utilized them to secure judgments against hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of alleged debtors," the lawsuit said, allegedly violating federal racketeering and Pennsylvania's fair credit laws.