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Judge Grants Summary Judgment For Defense in FDCPA Letter Case

A federal judge in Florida has granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant that was accused in a class action suit of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the collection letter it sent did not explicitly use the word “creditor” in it.

A copy of the ruling in Encarnacion v. Financial Corporation of America can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff took his son to an emergency room at Lehigh Regional Medical Center. The plaintiff incurred a debt which he did not pay, and the account was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter, on its own letterhead. Below the letterhead, on the right-hand side of the page, was the following information:

ACCOUNT IDENTIFICATION
Re: Lehigh Regional Medical Center
Account Number : [3948]
Patient Name : [O.E.]
Date of Service : 11-07-16
Balance Due : $53.27

Nowhere in the letter is the word “creditor” used, so the plaintiff filed the class-action suit, alleging the letter violated Section 1692g(a)(2) of the FDCPA, which requires that a letter contain the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed. As well, the plaintiff argued, the letter did not say that the account had been “placed” with the defendant for collection, even though the name of the hospital and the collection agency were the only two entities mentioned in the letter, aside from the plaintiff. The letter did say it was “an attempt to collect a debt” and that the “communication is from a debt collector.”

Even though the the plaintiff conceded the FDCPA does not require the use of “magic words” in collection letters, the Judge deemed the lack of “magic words” to be the basis for his complaint.

“Of course, debt collectors cannot evade their obligation to identify the creditor by writing dunning letters in Dothraki,” wrote Judge Sheri Polster Chappell. Section 1692g(a)(2) “requires debt collectors to identify the creditor in a manner that the least sophisticated consumer would understand. The letter satisfies that requirement here even without the magic words that Encarnacion seeks.”

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