In a ruling that was spotlighted by Barron & Newburger, a District Court judge in Pennsylvania has granted a plaintiff’s motion to dismiss his own lawsuit and denied a defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Tsouli-Moufid v. Credit Control can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant alleging it called him at irregular times, misrepresented the amount that was owed, and sought to collect an amount that included improper fees and interest. Having responded to discovery requests that rebutted the allegations, the defendant was notified the day before the plaintiff was to be deposed that he was willing to voluntarily dismiss the suit. The defendant did not oppose the dismissal, but only on the condition that its attorneys’ fees and costs should be covered by the plaintiff — an amount in the neighborhood of $2,000.
The plaintiff claims to have received numerous calls where the party on the other end of the phone hung up when the plaintiff answered the phone. The defendant said it only made four calls to the plaintiff — all within the window allowed by the FDCPA. Judge Gene Pratter of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that the plaintiff needed discovery to determine whether the defendant was the one calling him, which constitutes a “legitimate grievance” at the time the suit was filed.
The defendant also noted that this was the fourth time it had been sued by the lawyer representing the plaintiff where the case was dismissed prior to the plaintiff being deposed. But Judge Pratter said it was “unremarkable” that the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defendant had crossed paths before.
Judge Pratter then rejected the defendant’s argument that it encountered “substantial” costs in defending itself. The defendant oped to file the motion for attorney’s fees rather than just allow the plaintiff to dismiss the case, Judge Pratter said.
“The Court does not find the roughly $2,000 Credit Control seeks to be ‘substantial,’ particularly when it is orders of magnitude smaller than cases in which courts have granted such relief,” Judge Pratter wrote. “The Court does applaud Credit Control’s prompt production of material in response to discovery requests because non-dilatory responses both reduce Credit Control’s own costs and, in this case at least, led to a more expeditious resolution as well.”