Judge Grants Defendant’s MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Alleged Abusive Behavior

A District Court judge in Missouri has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it allegedly harassed the plaintiff. The harassment? Nine calls in a nine-month span and inquiring about the plaintiff’s job and tax return status.

A copy of the ruling in Benson v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection call from the defendant in relation to an unpaid debt. During the call, the plaintiff indicated she wanted to pay the debt, but did not have the means to do so. The representative of the defendant inquired about whether the plaintiff could use her income tax return to pay off the balance. The plaintiff and the representative agreed to a settlement amount and scheduled a payment to be made six weeks after the date of the call. The representative said if the refund had not arrived by then, the plaintiff could re-schedule the payment. The plaintiff expressed some concern, saying she was “real uncomfortable” about whether the money would be in the account by the date the payment was due, and did not give out her debit card information. The plaintiff consented to receiving additional calls from the defendant.

In a subsequent conversation, the plaintiff hung up on a representative of the defendant when the representative asked about the plaintiff’s employment status.

The plaintiff subsequently filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Section 1692d(5) of the FDCPA by engaging in harassing, oppressing, or abusive behavior in the attempted collection of a debt. But Judge Henry Autrey of the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Northern Division, disagreed with the plaintiff’s contention. Just because a plaintiff gets “upset” during a collection call does not automatically mean the defendant violated the FDCPA, Judge Autrey ruled.

Thanks to the call recordings and call logs from the defendant, it was able to win its motion for summary judgment.

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