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Judge Grants MSJ in Case Involving Two Dispute Notices Sent Months Apart

A District Court judge in Texas has granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant that was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending two collection letters — four months apart — that each contained a notice and a 30-day window in which the debt could be disputed. The conflicting information was said to violate Section 1692e of the FDCPA by using false, deceptive or misleading representations in the collection of a debt.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Ortiz v. Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

This is believed to be the first time that a court within the Fifth Circuit has addressed this particular issue.

The plaintiff received two collection letters, one in October 2017 and one in February 2018. Each letter contained the following passage: “Unless you dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, within thirty (30) days after your receipt of this notice, the debt will be assumed valid by us.” The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that including the dispute notice in the second letter rendered the dispute notification in the first letter “literally false.”

Since a court in the Fifth Circuit had not issued a ruling on a case like this, Judge Sidney Fitzwater of the District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division looked at how courts in other circuits have ruled.

In looking at Curry v. AR Res., Inc. from the District of New Jersey and Young v. G.L.A. Collection Co., from the Southern District of Indiana, Judge Fitzwater ruled that a letter that generates a “litany of questions” is not the same thing as being liable under the FDCPA.

“Indeed, if the second letter did re-start the period of time that the consumer had to request debt verification, then it only enlarged the consumer’s rights,” Judge Fitzwater wrote. “And if the second letter did not re-start the period of time available to the consumer, then the consumer is in the same position she was before the second letter was sent—she could not feasibly take any action to her detriment in response to the second letter.”

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