Sixth Circuit Upholds MSJ For Defense in FDCPA Case Over Disputed Debt

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld a summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant that was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it did not provide the proper documentation to verify an account that had been disputed and that was accused of fabricating information that was sent to the plaintiff to confirm the account in question was his.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Cooper v. Portfolio Recovery Associates can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendant purchased a number of defaulted receivables from a financial services company, including the plaintiff’s account. After sending the plaintiff a collection letter, the plaintiff turned around and began a year-long odyssey of the plaintiff seeking certain information to verify the account was his and the defendant sending the verification information as required under the FDCPA. The plaintiff ultimately filed suit, arguing that the defendant falsified documents because, for example, the address on his statements was listed as 25701 West 12 Mount, when he in fact lived at 25701 West 12 Mile, and the name on his account was listed as William S. Cooper 2 instead of William S. Cooper II.

A District Court judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, which the plaintiff appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In upholding the summary judgment ruling, the Sixth Circuit acknowledged that there is a “genuine issue” whether the plaintiff opened the account in question, but the plaintiff could not provide enough evidence to support his allegation that the defendant falsified records.

“Cooper has presented no evidence of fraud or fabrication by PRA,” the Sixth Circuit wrote. “Assuming, as we must, that Cooper’s testimony is accurate and that he never opened the account, it does not follow that PRA fabricated or falsified the account statements or information. Although Cooper has identified irregularities in the documents that he contends are evidence of falsification, these irregularities do not support an inference that PRA fabricated the statements. Yes, the documents list the account holder as ‘William S. Cooper 2’ rather than as ‘William S. Cooper II’—Cooper’s preferred styling — and refer to a non-existent ‘West 12 Mount’ address; but this is not evidence that PRA falsified or fabricated the account statements and that the statements were not simply inaccurate or based on information provided by someone else.”

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