Judge Grants MSJ For Defendant, Vacates Class Certification In FDCPA Creditor ID Case

A District Court judge in Wisconsin has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act class-action case, determining that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue because he took no action to clarify his confusion over whom he should pay after receiving a collection letter from the defendant. The judge also vacated an order certifying a class in the case.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Matthias v. Tate & Kirlin Associates can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff stopped making payments on a debt owed to Fingerhut, which was actually issued by WebBank. The debt was sold or transferred to LVNV Funding, which placed the debt with the defendant for collection. The defendant sent the plaintiff two collection letters, each of which identified WebBank as the original creditor, LVNV Funding as the creditor, and Santander Consumer USA as the previous creditor. During a deposition, a representative of the defendant could not explain why Fingerhut was not mentioned in the letter or why Santander was listed as a previous creditor.

The plaintiff acknowledged during his deposition that he never called any of the numbers listed in the letters, nor did he visit any websites to figure out how to make a payment or seek to verify the debt. He did bring the letter to his bankruptcy attorney along with other information about debts he owed.

The plaintiff filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging the defendant violated Section 1692g(a)(2) of the FDCPA by failing to correctly identify the creditor to whom the debt was owed and sought to include anyone else who received a letter regarding unpaid debts owed to LVNV Funding related to WebBank/Santander Consumer USA accounts.

But Judge Stephen Crocker of the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin looked to a number of recent rulings from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on the issue of standing, and ruled that the plaintiff did not do enough to indicate he had standing to file his lawsuit.

“Although Matthias contends that the letters left him unsure about whom to pay, his confusion is not enough,” Judge Crocker wrote. “Matthias did not try to clarify his confusion, did not make a payment, and did not otherwise attempt to manage his debt. In fact, he testified that he did not remember or did not know whether he ever intended to pay the debt. The fact that Matthias later handed the letters over to his bankruptcy lawyer does not change the evaluation.”

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