Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Over Letter Sent to Attorney

A District Court judge in California has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending a collection letter to the plaintiff through her attorney, which included a demand for payment and a payment coupon.

A copy of the ruling in Swartzlander v. Capital Management Services, L.P., can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff hire the attorney to represent her in a bankruptcy proceeding prior to receiving the letter in question. The bankruptcy counsel’s information was provided to the plaintiff’s creditors. The defendant then sent two letters to the plaintiff at the bankruptcy attorney’s address. The letters, which were addressed to the attorney, included a validation notice, a notice that late charges were still accruing on the debt, and a detachable coupon to remit with a payment.

The defendant cited a case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Guerrero v. RJM Acquisitions LLC, which held that communications to an individual’s attorney are not actionable under the FDCPA. The plaintiff attempted to separate this case from Guerrero, arguing that there was no demand for payment in that case.

Judge William Hayes of the District Court for the Southern District of California, sided with the defense.

“The allegations that the letters included the pronoun ‘you’ and referenced the debt owed by Plaintiff do not bring Plaintiff’s claims within the scope of the FDCPA,” Judge Dayes wrote. “The allegations that the letters referenced Plaintiff’s FDCPA rights do not bring Plaintiff’s claims within the FDCPA … The allegations that the letters were sent to an attorney hired by Plaintiff for representation in bankruptcy, rather than debt collection, do not bring Plaintiff’s claims within the FDCPA.”

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