Calif. Appeals Court Rules on FDCPA, TCPA Case Invoking Anti-SLAPP Defense

The California State Court of Appeals has partially overturned a lower court’s denial of a lawsuit claiming a collection law firm violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in which the defendant attempted to use an anti-SLAPP motion to have the case dismissed.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Ruiz v. Hunt & Henriques can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff incurred a credit card debt that was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent a collection letter to the plaintiff, to which she responded in writing by disputing the debt and saying that the credit card was lost of stolen and there were fraudulent charges made to the account. She also said her health had deteriorated and she was no longer able to work and could not make any more payments.

The defendant responded to the plaintiff’s letter, requesting documentation to verify the claim that the plaintiff’s identity had been stolen. The plaintiff claims never to have received this letter. The defendant sent another letter, notifying the plaintiff that it intended to file a lawsuit against her in order to try and collect on the debt. The defendant filed its lawsuit and the plaintiff filed a cross-complaint, alleging the defendant violated the TCPA by using an automated telephone dialing system to contact her without her permission, and violated the FDCPA by disclosing the existence of the debt to her son and by attempting to collect more than what was owed because of the charges that were made to the account when her card was lost or stolen.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss under the state’s ant-SLAPP statute, which is designed to provide for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits. The acronym “SLAPP” stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.”

But a California state court judge denied the motion, ruling the plaintiff had shown a probability of prevailing on each claim. The defendant appealed the ruling to the state’s Court of Appeals.

The Appeals Court overturned the dismissal of the TCPA claim, but upheld the denial on the plaintiff’s other claims.

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