Messerli & Kramer loses big for adding attorney fees onto amount of debt

Messerli & Kramer and Pipestone Financial, two major debt collectors in Minnesota, took a big hit last week in a Fair Debt Collection Practices lawsuit. Pipestone and Messerli sued Douglas Munoz and demanded, among other things, attorney fees in the amount of $2,105.35. However, Messerli had a contingent-fee arrangement with Pipestone, and Judge Erickson concluded that:

In this case, Pipestone, represented by Messerli & Kramer, alleged that attorney fees were due and owing at the outset of the state-court action. Defendants’ contingency-fee agreement determined the amount of attorney fees sought. Munoz was not a party to that agreement, and he did not agree in the Cardmember Agreement to subject himself to whatever contingency fee a debt collector agreed to pay its attorney. Instead, he agreed to pay “all collection expenses actually incurred” and “reasonable fees” of an outside attorney. Having agreed to pay Messerli & Kramer a percentage of the amount collected, Pipestone had not incurred the attorney fees sought in the state-court action when Pipestone alleged that the fees were due and owing from Munoz.

In sum: debt collectors probably violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if they ask for attorney fees in a specific amount in the complaint. Since Messerli has a lot of lawsuits out there, they stand to lose quite a bit if debtors protect their rights under the FDCPA. Read the full opinion in Munoz v. Pipestone Financial (PDF link).

  • JOHN


  • Lindsay Hedlund

    i just got a garnishment on my wages for a credit card that was 300 max limit that i paid off 10 years ago and they want me to pay them 1890 dollars for what i paid the card off. they are nothing but criminals. and im taking them to court over this

  • Rob

    these guys have no morals, they call my mother constantly and give her a hard time over my Capital one bill which is in reality under $600.00 they want over $1100. They tell her they are suing me and that they will take everything I own, which is not much. What do they expcet to get, they are just putting the world in more termoil.

  • Laura

    I also have a judgement against me through Messerli and Kramer. The contact number I have reached them at is a direct line # 1-763-577-5616

  • Crystal

    I have a judgement on my credit report that is stated to be from Messerli & Kramer and Pipestone Financial. I have never received any documentation from this compnay that I even had a debt. Where can I find their contact information to figure out what this is for?

  • Sam Glover

    Jen, see the comment above yours. You should call a consumer rights lawyer for help with your lawsuit.

  • Jen

    I am getting legal documents from Messerli & Kramer for an Discover card I can not pay (and I’ve told Discover this repeatedly). I can’t even afford to pay my mortgage, and I am in danger of getting my gas and electric shut off…I’ve tried calling the number on the paperwork and gotten nowhere. It appears they are trying to collect attorney fees from me? I’m so confused. Who do I call for help? Any advice?

  • Sam Glover

    We do not give legal advice here. You should contact a consumer lawyer in your state.

  • Elaine

    a judgment from pipestone financial showed up on my credit report. It was from the civil court in illinois for over $5000. I have never lived in illinois and had no knowledge of a suit. The only thing that I can think of is for a charge off on of a $500 credit card from providian. What should I do?