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Circuit Court Rules Against Plaintiff in FDCPA, TCPA Case

A collection agency was awarded a summary judgment dismissal by a Circuit Court in Pennsylvania that it did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act after it placed, but did not connect, two calls to an individual whose phone number was listed as the contact number for a collection account, but who was not the account holder.

The case, David Wattie-Bey v. Modern Recovery Solutions, was claiming violations of the FDCPA and Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The collection agency placed the first call to the defendant, who said he answered the call by saying “hello,” only to hear nothing in response. The call was then disconnected by the collection agency. A second call was placed a minute later and after it was answered, again it was disconnected. The defendant then called the number that has just called him and spoke with an agent for the collection agency. The plaintiff was asked if he knew the person the agency was looking for, and when he said he did not, the agent ended the call.

The case was originally filed in September 2014.

By only placing two calls, the agency could not “have the natural consequence of harassing, oppressing, or abusing Wattie-Bey as recipient of the calls, nor that MRS acted with the requisite intent to annoy, abuse, or harass him,” according to the summary judgment.

The plaintiff also tried to claim a violation of the FDCPA because the caller failed to disclose his or her identity, but the agency used an accurate phone number – that the plaintiff actually dialed – when contacting the plaintiff.

The plaintiff also claimed invasion of privacy, but two hang-up calls and one brief conversation was not enough to constitute an invasion, according to the Circuit Court.

“Here, it is undisputed that Wattie-Bey received at most two “hang-up” phone calls within the space of a minute, and that the calls ceased after he placed a return call to MRS and informed them that they had a wrong number. Even that brief, one-minute phone conversation was conducted in a professional manner, with no allegations or evidence of threats, insults, or obscene language–indeed, the parties agree that the call ended “politely” once MRS learned that it had a wrong number and Wattie-Bey did not know the person they were trying to reach. Based on the undisputed evidence of record, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, no reasonable jury could conclude that the two “hang-up” calls to Wattie-Bey’s cellphone number placed by MRS on March 6, 2014, were either a substantial intrusion or highly offensive,” according to the ruling.

“We all have a common experience of calls that do not connect. It is nice to see a judge write an opinion that recognizes that reality and does attribute evil motives to mere technological failures,” said Manny Newburger of the law firm Barron & Newburger in Austin, Texas.

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