Judge Grants MSJ For Defense in FDCPA Case Over Multiple Addresses in Letter

In a case that was defended by Malone Frost Martin, with local representation from Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, a District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling the plaintiff lacked standing to argue that multiple addresses in a collection letter were misleading because the plaintiff admitted during a deposition to never reading the letter.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Truckenbrodt v. The CBE Group, Inc., can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant. The letter included a reference to a “mailing address” which was underneath the validation notice, a “Payment Processing Center” address which was printed on the detachable payment coupon, and a street address which was printed at the top of the letter with the company letterhead. The plaintiff’s suit claimed that the multiple addresses violated the FDCPA because the addresses made it “unclear to which address he should write if he disputed the debt.”

The one problem? The plaintiff, during his deposition, admitted he had never read the letter. He said he first saw it “the other day” when he was preparing for his deposition. He claimed afterward that he was nervous and thought the defense counsel was “trying to trick” him into “answering questions he didn’t understand.”

In a footnote, Judge Edward Korman of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York wondered how the plaintiff came to file the suit if he had never read the offending letter. The plaintiff testified that his wife knew about the letter and the litigation so she might have been the one to read it. The plaintiff went on to say he didn’t know that a lawsuit had been filed and he thought he was being deposed because he had been sued.

Given the plaintiff’s admission, Judge Korman ruled that he lacked standing to file the lawsuit and granted the defendant’s motion. Even had the plaintiff had standing, the letter would not have been found to be misleading, Judge Korman wrote.

“The proximity of this (ungrammatical) mailing address to the explanation of how to dispute the debt makes clear that this address is where the dispute should be sent,” Judge Korman wrote. “Although the detachable payment slip at the bottom of the letter contains a different address, it is labeled ‘Payment Processing Center’ and is immediately beneath a space for the consumer to fill in his credit card information. Any reasonable consumer — even an unsophisticated one — would understand that a dispute about the debt’s validity should go to the mailing address immediately following the instruction for how to dispute the debt, while any payment should be sent to the ‘Payment Processing Center.’ “

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