A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss and granted a motion to certify a class in a case in which the defendant is accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending deposition notices to individuals with default judgments entered against them as a means of getting individuals into a room with the defendant to discuss a settlement of the unpaid debt.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Barenbaum v. Hayt, Hayt & Landau, LLC can be accessed by clicking here.
A law firm hired by a debt buyer obtained a default judgment against the plaintiff for an unpaid credit card debt. The law firm’ then sent post-judgment interrogatories to the plaintiff, which went unanswered. Then, the law firm sent the plaintiff a “Notice of Deposition in Aid of Execution” which directed the plaintiff to “appear and testify” at a certain date. The plaintiff contacted the law firm and asked if he had to appear and was told he did. So he brought his brother, an attorney, on the proscribed date and met with an attorney from the defendant. No court reporter was present. The defendant’s attorney said the proceeding was going to be “informal” and began a conversation about how to settle the debt.
The judge granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the count that it violated Section 1692d of the FDCPA by engaging in abusive or harassing practices to attempt to collect on the debt. But the judge granted summary judgment for the plaintiff on the count that the letter violated Section 1692e of the FDCPA because it deceived the recipient into believing a deposition would be held when in fact it would not.
The defendant also attempted to invoke the FDCPA’s Bona Fide Error defense, but that was rebuked by the judge because the defendant allegedly violated a state law ,which is not covered the BFE defense.
The judge then certified the class, including more than 300 people who received similar notices and showed up for their depositions.