Judge Grants MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Disputed Debt

A District Court judge in Arkansas has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case after it was accused of engaging in harassing behavior by sending the same verification letter twice in a month in response to two dispute notices sent by the plaintiff and for not including all the information the plaintiff requested in his dispute.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Johnston v. Monterey Financial Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff and his wife purchased a timeshare membership. The pair stopped making payments after six months when they separated, and the account was placed with the defendant for collections. The defendant sent a validation notice to the defendant and his wife. After the 30-day validation period expired, the defendant began reporting the debt to credit reporting agencies. The plaintiff became aware of the debt when he was declined for a loan six weeks later. The plaintiff sent a letter to the defendant asking to verify the original contract. Less than a week later, the plaintiff sent another letter, officially disputing the debt, asking for, among other things. an explanation and calculation of the amounts owed.

When it received the letters, the defendant marked the account as disputed and obtained a copy of the original agreement from the creditor. It mailed the plaintiff a copy of the agreement and notified him that the account was being marked as disputed with the credit reporting agency. The defendant sent a second letter, virtually the same as the first, a few days later.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that he was being harassed because he received “the same inadequate” response twice in less than a month and that the defendant violated the FDCPA by not properly validating the debt and continuing to report it as delinquent.

Judge Robert Dawson of the District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Hot Springs Division, made short work of the plaintiff’s harassment claim, saying that two letters in a month that were sent in response to a request for information “does not amount to harassment under the FDCPA.”

As for not properly validating the debt, Judge Dawson found that the letters sent by the defendant to the plaintiff “were sufficient to put Plaintiff on notice of the nature, status, and balance of the debt” that was allegedly owed to the creditor.

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