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Judge Certifies Class, Gives Defense 14 Days to Fight Summary Judgment in FDCPA Letter Case

A debt collector suffered the triple whammy of having a summary judgment only partially denied, the plaintiff’s class certification granted, and the judge giving the collector 14 days to show cause why the plaintiff should not be granted summary judgment, in a case in which the collector did exactly what its client asked the collector to do.

A copy of the ruling in Weissman v. Collecto Inc. can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant in relation to an unpaid debt that was owed to T-Mobile. Along with prescribing what language was used in the letter, T-Mobile also required the defendant, when an individual disputed a debt during the course of a phone call, to either transfer the call to T-Mobile or give the individual a T-Mobile number to call to address the dispute.

In filing the suit, the plaintiff alleged the defendant violated Sections 1692g, 1692e, and 1692e(10) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the letter directed the plaintiff to send all correspondence to T-Mobile, rather than the defendant, which was attempting to collect the debt.

Judge Pamela Chen from the District Court for the Eastern District of New York, granted summary judgment for the defendant on the 1692e and 1692e(10) counts, but denied it on the 1692g count. Judge Chen also certified a class of 35,630 individuals who received similar letters from the defendant.

The confusing nature of the language in the letter and where a dispute or validation request should be directed to would be enough to trip up a least sophisticated consumer, Judge Chen ruled. By instructing the plaintiff to contact T-Mobile to dispute or validate the debt, the letter overdshadowed and contradicted the validation notice. Judge Chen said the defendant’s argument that whether the individual followed the instructions on the front side of the letter and disputed the debt to T-Mobile, or followed the instructions on the back side of the letter and direct the dispute to the defendant, the plaintiff’s rights would be validly exercised, “lacked merit.”

Given the confusion, the judge is inclined to grant summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and gave the defendant 14 days to argue why it should not be granted.

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