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Judge Dismisses FDCPA Suit Over Account Number Confusion in Letter

A District Court judge in Texas has granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit after a collection agency was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by including two different debts under the same self-generated account number.

A copy of the ruling in Reynolds v. Medicredit, Inc., can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff had a pair of debts that were incurred to the same healthcare facility, each of which was placed with the defendant for collection. Originally, the complaint included allegations the defendant also violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making excessive and harassing phone calls, but that charge was not included in an amended complaint that was filed five months after the original suit was filed. The amended complaint just contained the FDCPA allegations. After the first debt was placed with the defendant, it sent a letter to the plaintiff seeking payment. A second letter was subsequently sent after the second debt was placed with the defendant. Both letters listed the same account number.

By including both debts under the same account number, the plaintiff was confused as to the “the true character and amount of the purported obligations,” because the first debt represented a balance of $600 and the second letter represented a balance of $75 under the same account number. The plaintiff believed her insurance may have stepped in to pay off part of the balance.

The defendant was accused of violating Sections 1692e(2) and 1692e(10) of the FDCPA by using misleading representations in attempting to collect a debt.

In dismissing the claim, the judge agreed that the letters could be found deceptive in a “bizarre or idiosyncratic” reading of them.

“Even the unsophisticated consumer — when reading the letters as a whole, with some care — would note the differing client account numbers, the dates of service that differ by more than four months, and the large gap between the two balances of $600 and $75,” wrote Judge Xavier Rodriguez in his ruling. “That unsophisticated consumer would see that these differences show that the letters refer to separate debts. No reasonable factfinder could find otherwise.”

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