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MSJ Denied in FDCPA Case Over False Name Exemption

A Magistrate judge in Florida has denied motions for summary judgment from both the plaintiff and the defendant in a case where the defendant — a hospital — is accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by using the name of its in-house collection operation when filing a lien against the plaintiff for an unpaid debt.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Smith v. University Community Hospital can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received treatment at the defendant’s facility and incurred a debt which was not paid. The defendant’s in-house collection operation, which uses a different name than the hospital, obtained a lien against the plaintiff’s property.

The defendant believes it is not subject to the FDCPA because it is the original creditor, but the plaintiff argues that the defendant is subject to the false name exemption of the FDCPA because the name of the in-house collection operation is different than the name of the hospital and would be confusing to the least sophisticated consumer.

Judge Amanda Sansone of the District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, determined that a jury should decide whether the least sophisticated consumer would have been confused or not.

“From reviewing the hospital lien, a reasonable jury could find that Patient Financial Services presented itself in the lien paperwork as part of Community Hospital and not a third-party debt collector, or a reasonable jury could find that Patient Services presented itself as a third-party debt collector rather than an entity within Community Hospital,” Judge Sansone wrote.

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