Girl Scout cookies are delicious, but are they worth a $740 lawsuit?
Tad Osborn of Fort Collins, Colorado, wrote the Girl Scouts at $42 check for several boxes of cookies last year. It seemed like everything was sweet -- until he received a notice from a debt collection agency telling him that his check had bounced, reports ABC News.
Osborn claims that the Girl Scouts didn't notify him before they sent the problematic check to a debt collection agency. But does that matter?
Colorado's Bad Check Laws
Under Colorado law, if a check bounces, the person who wrote the bad check is still liable to the party he owes money to. So if a bad check is issued, the person to whom money is owed can opt to collect:
- The face amount of the check plus actual damages. Actual damages are generally damages that compensate the injured party for losses sustained as a direct result of the bounced check; or
- The face amount of the check plus a reasonable posted or contractual charge that doesn't exceed $20. Plus, if the check has been assigned to a collection agency, the person who wrote the check can be liable for an additional amount to cover the costs of collection that is 20 percent of the face amount of the check, but not less than $20; or
- Three times the face amount of the check, but not less than $100, if the person to whom the money is owed gives notice to the check maker in accordance with the statute and the check maker doesn't pay within 15 days of receiving the notice.
Bad check laws in other states have similar provisions. But in Osborn's case, how did his $42 check turn into a $740 ordeal?
The Girl Scouts say Osborn's $42 check was returned to them because his account was closed. Osborn denies this could have happened, and believes there was an issue with the Girl Scouts' bank.
(The Girl Scouts also told The Denver Post that a local troop representative knocked on Osborn's door, but no one answered. It's not clear if the troop made any other attempts to contact Osborn about his bounced check.)
Osborn says he tried to explain the situation to the Girl Scouts when he received the collection agency notice last summer, asking for $82 in restitution for the bounced check, ABC News reports. But with Osborn refusing to pay, that bill has now snowballed as the collection agency has sued him to compel payment. The $739.85 sought by the agency includes $450 in attorney's fees.
To prevent the collection agency from winning a default judgment -- which could potentially happen if Osborn took no action -- Osborn had to pay $100 just to file a response to the lawsuit. A trial over the Girl Scout cookie check issue is now set for May.
Faced with the possibility of having to fork over more than $700 for an order of Girl Scout cookies, Osborn may want to contact an experienced debt collections lawyer for help. A lawyer may also be able to negotiate a settlement for a smaller amount.
Now that he knows how the cookie crumbles when a check (allegedly) goes bad, Osborn is advising other Girl Scout cookie customers to pay only with cash.
- Fort Collins man's bill for Girl Scout cookies skyrockets to $800 (The Denver Post)
- Sell Girl Scout Cookies at Work, Get Fired? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Girl Scout Leader Stole $10K From Troop: Cops (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Girl Scout Cookies: Woman Attacks Roommate Over Thin Mints (FindLaw's Legally Weird)