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Requiring Collectors To Track Individuals’ Every Move ‘Impractical,’ Federal Judge Rules

By being able to comprehensively detail all of the steps it took to ensure it was filing a lawsuit in the proper jurisdiction against an individual, a federal court has granted summary judgment in favor of a collection law firm that was being sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

The individual had filed the lawsuit saying that the lawsuit was not filed in the proper jurisdiction because he was not living in that city when the suit was filed.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Peter Guynn v. Blatt, Hasenmiller, Liebsker & Moore, LLC can be accessed here.

Guynn was living in a home he owned in Indianapolis, Indiana, until he was transferred by his employer to Edwardsville, Illinois in February 2014. Guynn moved out of his house, but did not sell it, and he had his mail forwarded to a P.O. Box in Indianapolis. Before being transferred, Guynn defaulted on a credit card debt. After he moved, two letters were sent to Guynn’s P.O. Box and were not returned as undeliverable. In sending the letters, the attorneys:

  • reviewed and compared the information contained in the letter to the information received from the creditor
  • checked the account’s scrub history
  • looked for disputes
  • confirmed Guynn was not represented by counsel
  • verified that Guynn’s listed address was in Indiana

The letter vendor that was used to send the message also checked the National Change of Address database, which listed the P.O. Box as the address for Guynn.

After the 30-day validation notice period expired, the law firm moved forward with the suit. Before filing the suit, the law firm reviewed the Marion County Assessor’s website and Indiana Property Record Cards to confirm that Guynn owned the property in the jurisdiction where the suit was to be filed. After filing the suit, the firm used two different skiptracing providers and found no current (at the time) connection between Guynn and Edwardsville.

Guynn sued the firm, saying that it violated the FDCPA because the original suit was filed in the wrong jurisdiction since he was “living” in Illinois, not Indiana. The firm countered that the error was covered under the “bona fide” error defense of the FDCPA.

Given the steps it took to ensure it was filing the suit in the proper jurisdiction, the judge ruled that the firm did everything it could to ensure it was following the proper procedure.

In fact, given the current economic climate in which businesses often demand greater fluidity from their employees in terms of travel and temporary relocation, it would be impractical to require debt collectors to track each debtor’s locations in order and to know where debtors, like Guynn, may be temporarily living at any given time.

 

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