Keeping the language of a collection letter somewhat vague and stopping short of providing legal advice has allowed a defendant to be granted a motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it did not specifically reference a state law on reviving the statute of limitations in a collection letter.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Domke v. MRS BPO can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant that included the following passage:
The law limits how long you can be sued on a debt. Because of the age of your debt, JEFFERSON CAPITAL SYSTEMS LLC cannot sue you for it. If you do not pay the debt, JEFFERSON CAPITAL SYSTEMS LLC may report or continue to report the debt to any credit reporting agency. MRS cannot sue you on this debt, and MRS cannot credit report this debt. In many circumstances, you can renew the debt and restart the time period for the filing of a lawsuit against you if you take specific action such as making certain payment on the debt or making a written promise to pay. You should determine the effect of any actions you take with respect to this debt.
The plaintiff sued, because in Florida, the statute of limitations can only be revived through a signed written agreement; a partial repayment does not restart the statute of limitations clock. The letter, argued the plaintiff, violated Section 1692e(2)(A), which prohibits the use of false or misleading representations in connection with the collection of a debt. The plaintiff argued that the letter misrepresented the Florida law by suggesting a partial repayment could restart the statute of limitations.
But because the defendant included phrases like “in many cases,” the letter does not specifically state what circumstances or what payment would be required to restart the statute of limitations. Going into more specifics may cross the line into offering legal advice, the letter “did no more than provide general information cautioning Plaintiff that action by Plaintiff could change the legal status of the debt,” wrote Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell of the District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.