A District Court judge in New Jersey has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act even though the suit was filed more than four years after the letter that is the source of the complaint was sent to the plaintiff.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Williams-Hopkins v. Allied Interstate can be accessed by clicking here.
It is at this point of the article that I want to remind you, the reader, that I am not an attorney, and thus apologize in advance if I screw up any of the legal theory that this case is predicated on or otherwise invokes.
While there is normally a one-year statute of limitations for filing claims against a debt collector for alleged violations of the FDCPA, there are some exceptions to that rule. One such exception exists when a class action lawsuit is filed and an individual falls in the definition of the class, the statute of limitations is paused until either the class has been certified or de-certified or the case is otherwise concluded. You lawyers will know this as the American Pipe tolling.
The plaintiff in this case argues that a similar lawsuit filed against the defendant in 2016, which was settled in early 2019, tolled her statute of limitations and allows her to sue. The defendant argued that the plaintiff would not have a member of the class in the class-action suit that was settled and the claim she is making — that the language in a collection letter was overshadowed — was not a claim made in the class action.
However, Judge Susan Wigenton of the District Court for the District of New Jersey, saw more similarities in the letters than the defendant saw and ruled the plaintiff would have been a member of the class and is thus entitled to the American Pipe tolling.