A District Court judge in Wisconsin has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it allegedly falsely implied that the attorney who signed a collection complaint against the plaintiff was meaningfully involved in assessing the merits of the collection claim.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Rossi v. Kohn Law Firm can be accessed by clicking here.
The defendant filed an action in state court against the plaintiff, attempting to collect on an unpaid debt. The complaint was signed by an attorney who, according to records maintained by the defendant, spent six minutes reviewing the documents before deciding to file suit. The state court action resulted in a judgment against the plaintiff, who turned around and sued the defendant for violating Section 1692e(3) of the FDCPA, which prohibits “false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney.” Had she known the attorney had only spent six minutes reviewing her case, the plaintiff claims she would have disputed the debt or consulted with a lawyer.
Judge James Peterson of the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the plaintiff did not have standing to sue and that her claim failed on the merits because she did not show that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding the level of involvement of the attorney who reviewed the original collection complaint.
“The court is not persuaded that the alleged statutory violation in this case presented an appreciable risk of harm to Congress’s concrete interest in preventing such abuse,” when it enacted the FDCPA, Judge Peterson wrote. “Obviously, signing a complaint without identifying how much time the lawyer spent preparing it is not an inherently abusive practice.”
Using testimony from the plaintiff’s deposition as well as her declaration, it is “clear that her decision not to dispute the debt was based on her knowledge that she owed the debt and her lack of knowledge about the legal resources available to her, not on any belief that Emick was more involved in preparing her case than he really was,” Judge Peterson wrote.