A District Court judge in Illinois has denied a defendant’s motion for summary judgment and granted a summary judgment motion for the plaintiff in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case in which a dispute was inadvertently sent to the wrong employee and therefor not logged, with the judge ruling the defendant was not entitled to the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Morris v. Choice Recovery can be accessed by clicking here.
An attorney representing the plaintiff disputed a medical debt via fax. The defendant’s procedures were to forward all disputes to the agency’s head of compliance, who would then log the dispute. In this instance, the dispute was instead transferred to a collector instead of the head of compliance, and the dispute was never logged. The defendant reported the debt as not disputed to at least one of the credit reporting agencies.
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Section 1692k(d) of the FDCPA. The defendant acknowledged that the plaintiff disputed the debt, but argued it was entitled to the bona fide error defense because the error was unintentional.
While Judge John Tharp, Jr., of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, agreed with the defendant that the error was unintentional, he determined that the defendant did not have the reasonable procedures in place to avoid such errors from occurring. The defendant’s administrative team were required to forward all disputes to the agency’s head of compliance. Expecting that would always occur is not enough, Judge Tharp ruled. The defendant “has not shown that it engaged in any real-time monitoring to ensure that the misrouting of communications disputing debts was detected in a timely manner or that it had any process for rerouting a misdirected communication disputing a debt if someone did detect a problem,” he said in granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, adding that “a system that relies on human infallibility is not, as a matter of law, reasonably adapted to prevent human error.”