Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Overshadowing Case

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall as a male. My sincerest apologies to Judge Hall.]

In a case that was first spotlighted by Manny Newburger from Barron & Newburger, a District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss a class-action Fair Debt Collection Practices Act suit, mainly because she understood that, sometimes, you need both sides of the page to include everything that needs to be included in a collection letter.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Have you signed up for the webinar, “The Most Common Overshadowing Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them” on Sept. 22 yet? No? Click here to remedy that right now.]

A copy of the ruling in the case of Mills v. Client Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant. Included on the front side of the letter was the validation notice, as required by the FDCPA, in the same font and type size as the rest of the letter, but under a heading that read “DEBT VALIDATION NOTICE”. The body of the letter concluded with the disclosure, “FOR IMPORTANT RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES WHICH MIGHT APPLY TO YOUR STATE OR RESIDENCE, PLEASE SEE BELOW OR REVERSE SIDE (IF FAXED THEN FOLLOWING PAGE).” On the other side of the letter were a number of state-required disclosures for California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, New York City, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the validation notice was “burie[d]” in the body of the letter and that the recipient was directed to the back of the letter for “important rights and privileges” even though the validation notice was on the front page. That disclosure overshadowed the validation notice, according to the plaintiff.

Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York was succinct in his assessment of the suit, which she said bordered on being frivolous.

“Nonsense,” she wrote. “Courts have long made clear that the consumer is charged with reading the entire document. This notice could not be clearer. Plaintiff’s overshadowing claim must be dismissed.”

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