Home / Compliance / ‘Blameless Ignorance’ Should Apply to FDCPA SOL Suits, SCOTUS Petitioner Argues

‘Blameless Ignorance’ Should Apply to FDCPA SOL Suits, SCOTUS Petitioner Argues

Being “blamelessly ignorant” should be enough to delay the start of a statute of limitations clock in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case until the individual in question learns an injury has occurred and the clock should not start when the actual violation happened, the petitioner in an upcoming Supreme Court case submitted yesterday.

The petitioner in Rotkiske v. Klemm filed its brief with the Supreme Court yesterday. At issue is when the clock on the FDCPA’s one-year statute of limitations starts ticking — when the violation occurred or when the individual learns of the violation.

The petitioner had a balance on his credit card that was placed with the respondent for collections. The respondent attempted to sue the petitioner in 2008 but was unable to locate him. The respondent tried again in 2009, and unbeknownst to the petitioner, someone accepted service of the lawsuit on his behalf. The respondent was able to obtain a default judgment, which was discovered when the petitioner applied for a mortgage in 2014.

In June 2015, the petitioner filed suit against the respondent, alleging a violation of the FDCPA. The respondent moved to have the case dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired and the District Court judge granted the motion. That decision was appealed to the Third Circuit, which ruled the clock starts when the violation occurs, which broke from two other Circuits, which had ruled the clock starts when the violation is discovered.

“Petitioner is a quintessential ‘blamelessly ignorant’ plaintiff — unaware for a time of the violation giving rise to his potential cause of action because of deceptive, misleading or fraudulent conduct by the prospective defendant,” his legal team wrote in the brief. “Here, the default judgment obtained by Respondents was made possible by the filing of a fraudulent Affidavit of Service.”

In his brief, the petitioner argues that the Discovery Rule should apply to the FDCPA. Under Section 813(d) of the FDCPA, it is not clear whether the Discovery Rule should apply or not, the petitioner wrote.

But, looking at cases that were ruled on before the FDCPA was enacted, “… it is difficult to imagine that Congress would have expected anything other than judicial application of the discovery rule to the FDCPA claim of Petitioner or any other blamelessly ignorant plaintiff.”

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