Judge Denies MTD in Case Over Collection Suit Filed Against Spouses Who Weren’t Married When Debt was Incurred

In a case that was first reported by Manny Newburger and Brit Suttell from Barron & Newburger, a District Court judge in Washington has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because it filed a collection suit against an individual and her husband, even though she was not married at the time the debts were incurred.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Persilver v. Merchants Credit Corp. can be accessed by clicking here.

An individual — Teresa Jean Smith — incurred several thousand dollars in medical debt, which was placed with the defendant for collection. The defendant filed a collection suit against Smith and John Doe Smith. The complaint alleged that the two were married during all “material times” and that the obligation was the responsibility of both spouses. Smith showed up at her court hearing to inform the judge that she was not married at the time the debts were incurred and the judge granted judgment for her and dismissed the case.

The plaintiff, who married Teresa after the debts were incurred, filed suit against the defendant, alleging it violated Section 1692e of the FDCPA, which prohibits the use of false, deceptive, or misleading means when attempting to collect on a debt. When it stated in its complaint that the plaintiff and Teresa were married at the time the debt was incurred and when it stated that the plaintiff was responsible for the debts, the defendant made a false representation, said Judge Richard Jones of the District Court for the Western District of Washington, who declined to adopt a report recommendation from a magistrate court judge that the motion to dismiss be granted.

The defendant attempted to argue that the motion should be granted because it never specifically named the plaintiff in the suit against his wife. But Judge Jones noted all the steps taken by the plaintiff to include Smith’s husband in the original complaint as proof that the defendant’s argument “fails.”

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