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One Contact From Collection Attorney Enough To Merit Jurisdiction, District Court Rules

A District Court judge in Massachusetts has denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against a debt collection attorney and a payday lender from Illinois because of jurisdictional issues.

The plaintiff, Sheen Grice, is suing a number of organizations, including a payday lender and the debt collection attorney used to try and recover an alleged unpaid balance, for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Massachusetts Debt Collection Practices Act, and the Consumer Protection Act.

Grice took out a $200 payday loan from a lender in 2015. After handing over the money, the lender started making withdrawals from Grice’s bank account. When the withdrawals continued after Grice believed the loan had been repaid, she closed that account.

After the account was closed, the defendants started trying to contact Grice, saying she could be arrested and forced to defend herself in a lawsuit in Chicago, where the companies were based. The loan documents listed the state of Illinois as the venue for any suits or proceedings.

The attorney sent an email to Grice’s work email account, saying that her wages could be garnished without a court order and that she could be sued and “thousands of dollars in attorneys fees” could be added to the judgment.

Grice said she believes she has repaid more than $1,600 for the $200 loan. She was not asked to sign any loan documents at the time she received her funds.

The defendants claim that the suit should be dismissed because none of the defendants are Massachusetts residents, but the court ruled that one contact between the debt collection attorney and the plaintiff was enough to confer personal jurisdiction.

In looking at other legal precedents, the judge in this case found differing decisions.

The short of it is that there is a split on the issue of whether a single communication giving rise to a FDCPA claim is sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over a nonresident debt collector or attorney.

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