Why would my wife state in a deposition on Monday that she thought her recent unlawful termination at Infinity Property and Casualty Corporation was driven by individuals connected to the debt-collection and credit-card industries?
Several pieces of circumstantial evidence indicate that Mrs. Schnauzer (MS) was cheated out of her job because we have filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania-based NCO Financial Services and Birmingham-based law firm Ingram & Associates LLC, both of which deal in debt collection. Both also appear to have close ties to American Express, the original creditor on the alleged debt.
Let's look first at one key piece of circumstantial evidence: MS's difficulties on her job dovetail with discovery issues in our lawsuit. In short, opposing counsel took a number of steps that apparently were designed to threaten us into submission. When it became clear that those tactics weren't working, MS suddenly became the target of fraudulent accusations at work, leading to her dismissal on September 25.
Why, perhaps, was it an urgent matter that my wife be cheated out of her job? The discovery deadline in our case is tomorrow, October 30. Our attorneys have sent a substantial number of interrogatories and requests for documents, which if answered, should shine considerable light on how American Express, NCO, and Ingram & Associates conduct their business--not only with us, but with thousands of other consumers.
Opposing counsel's behavior indicates that they want no part of answering our discovery requests. So it appears that they have engaged in a number of legal tactics that really are thinly disguised threats--designed to make us go away.
I should say that such tactics, to my knowledge, are not unlawful or improper. In fact, when you become acquainted with the justice process in the United States, you learn that litigation is little more than court-sanctioned extortion. Whether it's a plaintiff who has no case or a defendant who has no defense, glorified extortion attempts are central to the litigation game.
In our situation, the defendants appear to have no defense--and that was quite clear from Monday's depositions. So perhaps that explains the threats that have been fired our ways like flaming arrows over the past month or so.
The threats have focused on two primary areas: our depositions and our medical records.
For some time, we have received word through our attorneys that the other side was anxious to take our depositions. This was the case even though we had answered their written discovery requests and received zero discovery from them.
Most folks don't relish the idea of being deposed, and we suspect the other side thought their request would make us weak in the knees. But guess what? We really didn't mind giving our depositions. Answering questions under oath is not all that unpleasant when you are telling the truth, and we've been telling the truth all along. So scare tactic No. 1 didn't work.
Scare tactic No. 2 was an attempt to get unfettered access to our medical records. The defense is entitled to this information, up to a point, because our complaint claims emotional distress and other health-related damages. Most folks probably don't relish the idea of strangers pawing through their medical records, perhaps out of fear that personal or embarrassing information will be revealed. But guess what? We must not be easily embarrassed because we really didn't mind turning over our medical records. Our response to this request was essentially, "Have at it; we don't care." So that scare tactic didn't work either.
Here's the kicker, though: The opposing side's actions indicate they weren't interested in our medical records at all. They sought blanket access to our health provider's records and imposed an arbitrary 25-hour deadline on answering their request. Our attorneys opposed this action, and the court issued an order allowing defendants access only to records to which they are entitled under law.
To my knowledge, the defendants have not wound up seeking our medical records. Certainly nothing was presented at Monday's deposition to indicate that they had.
How does all of this connect to my wife's unlawful termination? Let's follow this timeline:
* September 10--NCO's attorneys send a letter seeking immediate and complete access to our medical records, contrary to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This letter comes after NCO representatives had been informed that we were meeting with our attorneys on September 14 about discovery and other issues.
* September 11--Our attorneys respond with a motion, stating that NCO is not entitled under the law to such access and such a deadline. The court grants this protective order.
* September 14--We meet with our attorneys about discovery and other issues. We tell them, in so many words, that we aren't bothered about providing medical records and depositions--as allowed under the law.
* September 16--I send an e-mail to our attorneys letting them know of dates in October that we are available for depositions. This information is forwarded to opposing counsel, indicating that we are not afraid to be questioned under oath.
Also on September 16, Mrs. Schnauzer receives a written warning at work, fraudulently accusing her of tardiness--even though she had been told to change her work shift from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in order to help serve the company's large California customer base. This was the first disciplinary action she had received after working at Infinity for almost three years and leads to her dismissal on September 25.
The bottom line? As each of opposing counsel's scare tactics failed, my wife began to face bogus charges at work. Was my wife cheated out of her job because we are standing up to the debt- collection and credit-card industries? Other evidence indicates the answer is yes, and we will be reporting on that in upcoming posts.
Meanwhile, you can get a feel for the tactics NCO is using by checking out their letter regarding our medical records. We will be publishing our response to this letter, showing that it is grounded in intimidation, not the law:
NCO Medical Records