A District Court judge in New Jersey has denied a plaintiff’s motion to certify a class action lawsuit against a collection law firm that was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by seeking damages greater than what was owed by the plaintiff and failing to itemize the claimed damages.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Zangara v. Zager Fuchs, P.C., can be accessed by clicking here.
The judge also deferred motions from the plaintiff and defendant for summary judgment and gave the plaintiff “a final opportunity” to refile a motion for class certification. The judge denied the original motion for certification because the purported class only contained 26 individuals, which falls into a grey area when certifying classes. Generally speaking, classes with fewer than 20 members are insufficient to be certified and classed with more than 40 members are sufficient, but those with between 21 and 40 members need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
In this case, the plaintiff provided a bond for an incarcerated individual, who failed to show for court, forfeiting the bond. The plaintiff failed to make the required payments on the bond and the bondholder assigned the rights to the bond to a different company. The original bondholder sent the plaintiff a letter notifying her of the transfer and indicating she owed $1,125 on the account. The new bondholder sent a letter to the plaintiff, indicating the amount owed was $3,085.87 and did not offer an explanation or a breakdown of why the amount owed had increased. The new bondholder hired a law firm to file a lawsuit against the plaintiff seeking repayment of the debt.
The judge denied certification because the plaintiff’s argument that statutory awards under the FDCPA make it unlikely that the class members would to pursue individual actions did not hold water. Along with the statutory damages, plaintiffs suing for alleged FDCPA violations are also eligible to seek actual damages as well.