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NDOH Judge Denies MTD in FDCPA ‘Current Balance’ Case

A District Court judge in Ohio has largely denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by referencing the “current balance” owed by an individual in a collection letter.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Virden v. Client Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant. Underneath an itemized list of what was owed, including the balance, interest ($0.00), and other charges ($0.00), the letter listed the “current balance” that was owed on the unpaid debt. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA. Judge Pamela Barker of the District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, dismissed the claims that the letter violated 1692f of the FDCPA, but denied the motion on the 1692e claim, ruling that a least sophisticated consumer may be confused by the reference to the “current balance” and that the plaintiff could be misled into thinking the balance might increase in the future.

In recognizing that the Sixth Circuit has not ruled on the issue, Judge Barker looked at how other districts have ruled on similar cases, and found three precedents — Driver v. LJ Ross Associates, Inc., Duarte v. Client Services, and Wood v. Allied Interstate, LLC — that convinced her to deny the defendant’s motion.

“There are multiple ways in which the itemization of interest and other charges on the Dunning Notice could be interpreted by the least sophisticated consumer,” Judge Barker wrote. “The consumer may assume that interest and other charges were not added and would never be added or that interest and other charges would begin to accrue if the debt was not paid. On a motion to dismiss, the Court cannot find that this second interpretation is clearly unreasonable.”

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