N.J. Judge Dismisses FDCPA Case About Dispute Notice

A District Court judge in New Jersey has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that accused it of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending a letter to the plaintiff that allegedly misled the plaintiff into thinking that the debt could be disputed orally, instead of in writing.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Mincey v. Jefferson Capital Systems can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter, which included the following passage:

NOTICE: Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any potion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid.

If you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion of it, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification.

If you request of this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor if different from the current creditor.

In sending the letter, the plaintiff said the defendant violated Section 1692g(a)(3) and 1692e(10) of the FDCPA because the validation notice makes it seem like a dispute could be made orally as well as in writing.

But, like a growing number of judges in The Garden State, Judge Noel Hillman rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that a least sophisticated consumer would be confused about how to dispute a debt.

“The least sophisticated debtor is bound to read collection notices in their entirety and ‘would understand that that notification mentioned in the second sentence refers to the notification mentioned in the first sentence.’ ” Judge Hillman wrote. “While Plaintiff attempts to isolate portions of the Validation Notice to prove the alleged FDCPA violation, such attempts ignore this Court’s requirement to view the Validation Notice as a whole. Viewed in its entirety, the Validation Notice is clear in its direction: should a debtor wish to object to the validity of a debt, it must do so within thirty (30) days, in writing.”

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