Centre Hall woman sues Ohio bank to stop automated calls to cellphone

A Centre Hall woman has filed a federal lawsuit to stop repeated automated calls to her cellphone by Synchrony Bank about her account.

Staci Watkins claims in a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. Middle District Court the automated messages, at times as many as five a day, identified Wal-Mart Credit Services of Synchrony Bank as the caller.

The court complaint states Watkins told the Kettering, Ohio, bank in August her husband had lost his job, she was having difficulty meeting monthly payments on her account and asked the automated calls stop because she paid for all in-coming calls.

Her attorney, Craig Thor Kimmel, of Ambler, claims that notification was sufficient to revoke any consent for the bank to call her cellphone. The court document claims the calls continued even after Kimmel sent a cease-and-desist letter on Aug. 11.

The suit lists the number of calls by specific dates received in August and September that Watkins contends were in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Watkins is seeking a jury trial on the matter and damages to include $1,500 for each call found to have violated the law.

Kimmel has represented Watkins in previous suits involving debt collection and repeated phone calls. The first was filed last October and involved calls from Account Services Collection Inc., a San Antonio-based debt collection agency that contacted Watkins multiple times over an alleged credit card debt, before and after Watkins asked them to stop and obtained legal counsel about the alleged debt and calls, according to court documents.

That case was voluntarily droppedby Kimmel in December.

The other was filed in January against Collection Management Co., a debt collection agency based in Pittsburgh, that contacted Watkins “once or twice” a week from May to August last year about an alleged $9,400 hospital debt at Mount Nittany Medical Center, according to court filings. Watkins disputed the debt because she felt it should have been covered by insurance, the filing stated.

That case was settled out of court last month, according to documents.

Under the prior two lawsuits, Kimmel claimed the collection companies violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because Watkins notified the agencies to stop calling her in both instances and the companies acted “with intent to annoy, abuse or harass” her in violation of the law by continuing the calls.

Kimmel could not be reached for comment.