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Woman at center of lawsuit slams debt collection company for ‘misrepresenting facts’ as hearing is postponed

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IDAHO FALLS — A woman being sued by Medical Recovery Services is slamming the debt collection company for attempting to “mischaracterize the facts” when it comes to her name and background.

A court hearing concerning the matter was postponed Monday afternoon as the woman, being sued for $5,500 by MRS, continues to fight the legal battle over a $294 bill.

The woman, whom we’re calling Mary Johnson, shared her story on EastIdahoNews.com last week. She agreed to speak publicly if her real name was not used because she is worried about the legal repercussions she may face for speaking out about MRS.

RELATED | Medical debt nightmare: Why a local woman could end up paying over $5,550 for her $294 doctor’s visit

The issue revolves around a now-paid $294 medical bill from years ago. MRS is asking that Johnson be required to pay as much as $5,583.25 to cover attorney and legal fees largely beyond her control. A judge will determine the ultimate amount Johnson must pay.

Last year, MRS attorneys Bryan Smith and Bryan Zollinger received a court order to garnish Johnson’s wages from her employer, Melaleuca, but the garnishment did not have her correct name listed. The Social Security number on the garnishment was Johnson’s, but the last name didn’t match hers.

Legal filings show Melaleuca tried to resolve the issue outside of court, but Smith and Zollinger refused. The case ended up before Magistrate Judge Michelle Mallard, and she ruled Melaleuca was correct in not garnishing the wages.

A proper garnishment with the correct name was then filed, and the debt plus original fees were paid. MRS then sued Johnson for the fees it incurred while fighting Melaleuca.

A hearing between Johnson and MRS was scheduled for Monday afternoon in Bonneville County. Smith and Johnson’s attorney, Andrew Hawes, were seen speaking with each other outside of the courtroom. After a 45-minute delay, the hearing was postponed.

It’s unclear if they reached an agreement, but in newly filed court documents, Johnson is unhappy with characterizations Smith and Medical Recovery Services have made about her name.

In previous court filings and in an interview with EastIdahoNews.com, Smith claimed that Johnson used four different “aliases,” and that’s why MRS had the wrong name on the original garnishment. But in court documents filed Friday, Hawes disputes those claims.

“MRS’s representation that the garnishments was (sic) ‘issued on all four potential aliases the defendant had gone by’ is inaccurate,” court documents state. “(Johnson) has had three different surnames: her maiden name, her first married name, and her second married name. These were (Johnson’s) legal names, not aliases … and she has never changed her last name other than after a marriage or divorce. (Johnson) strongly objects to MRS’s attempts to mischaracterize the facts.”

A hearing on the issue is now scheduled for May 8.

WATCH OUR 4-PART INVESTIGATION ON MEDICAL RECOVERY SERVICES HERE

— Part 1: Medical debt nightmare: Why a local woman could end up paying over $5,550 for her $294 doctor’s visit

— Part 2: Man fights 5-year legal battle with debt collection company after doctor’s error

— Part 3: How Medical Recovery Services takes care of business

— Part 4: Medical debt, collections and the fees you’ve probably never heard of

DISCLAIMER: In 2015, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot provided the seed money to launch EastIdahoNews.com. For a short time, he was an owner. He has never had anything to do with the operations of EastIdahoNews.com. He walked through our office once in 2015 and has never visited us since. Over a year ago, he totally divested his ownership.

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