A Delaware County woman claims that a malicious human being - and not a computer program - is behind the erroneous $286,651,237 credit-card bill that Capital One sent her last year, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Philadelphia court.
Now, Patrice Perry, 58, is suing Capital One for that same ridiculous amount for the months of harassment and "terroristic debt-collection methods" that she suffered at their hands, according to the suit.
Her attorney, Craig Kimmel, said that the nine-figure bill that Perry received in August was the final straw.
"It's not that different from going up to someone's house, knocking on the door and punching them in the face when they answer," he said.
Perry's troubles started in May 2009, when Capital One began trying to collect an alleged credit-card debt from her, according to the suit. The company not only called her at home and at work repeatedly, it also called her family and co-workers, the suit said.
Perry, a hotel clerk from Clifton Heights, received a series of bills, the first of which claimed that she owed $4,807, Kimmel said. The second bill, which came more than two months later, said, without explanation, that she owed about $100 less, according to the suit.
Kimmel said that his client never paid the first bill and was confused when the second one dropped in price. The third bill, received on Aug. 11, 2009, was $13 more than the first bill, again without explanation or a list of how the charges were calculated.
"It's not your typical scenario, where you'd expect if they were pursing debt with interest it would only go up," Kimmel said. "It went down and up and down and up. The only thing I can associate with that is that they were trying to confuse my client."
If Perry was confused after the third bill, she was dumbstruck when the fourth arrived for $286,651,237. Capital One asked that payment be sent in an envelope included with the bill and threatened to pursue legal action if she didn't pay.
"She was shocked, she had never seen a letter with such a big number on it before," Kimmel said. "And to demand she put the money in the envelope included and send it back . . . Phew!"
Kimmel said that a bill that large would most likely have been flagged and that human beings, not computers, are behind it.
In a written statement, a Capital One spokeswoman doesn't deny that claim.
"There are very rare occasions when human error has led to inaccuracies in customer billing letters," the statement read, in part. "This is clearly one of those instances. . . . We are working to resolve this issue."
Kimmel said that Capital One sued Perry for a lesser amount, but when no one from the company showed up for a hearing this spring, the case was dropped.
The last communication Perry received from Capital One was last week, when she got a letter that, without mentioning the last bill for more than $286 million, states that she now owes around $6,000, Perry said.