Judge Grants MSJ For Defense on 6 of 7 Counts in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment on six of the seven counts in a lawsuit claiming a letter it sent to the plaintiff violated several sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, but denied summary judgment motions from both sides on the remaining count that the plaintiff was misled into believing that an attorney was meaningfully involved in review of her account.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Solovyova v. Grossman & Karaszewski PLLC can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter seeking to collect on an unpaid credit card debt. The letter listed the original creditor as Citibank and the creditor to whom the debt was owed as JHPDE Finance I, LLC. The letter, which was sent on the defendant’s letterhead, list the defendant’s attorneys at the top right of the page, under the letterhead and across from the defendant’s contact information. The letter included the validation notice on the front and included “IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT CREDIT REPORTING” on the back.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated Sections 1692g(a)(1), 1692e, 1692e(2)(A), and 1692e(10) of the FDCPA by failing to state the amount of the debt that was owed (counts one and two of the complaint), Sections 1692g(a)(2), 1692e, 1692e(2)(A), and 1692e(10) by failing to identify the correct creditor to whom the debt was owed (counts three and four), Section 1692g(b) for overshadowing the validation notice (counts five and six) and Sections 1692e, 1692e(2)(A), 1692e(3) and 1692e(10) for making it appear as though an attorney was meaningfully involved in the case (count seven).

As to the first four counts, the plaintiff claimed she was never notified that her debt was sold and that she did not owe any money to the creditor identified in the letter. After pointing out that the plaintiff never exercised her right to dispute the debt, the defendant noted that there is no requirement under the FDCPA that an individual be notified if a debt is sold to a third party.

“Defendant’s letter stating the amount of debt, based on information provided by Citibank to JHPDE, and notifying plaintiff as to how she could seek validation of any portion of the debt, constitutes undisputed evidence that to the extent plaintiff disputed the amount of the debt, she has failed to submit evidence establishing the correct amount of the debt,.” Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York wrote in her ruling.

Judge Matsumoto also agreed with the defendant about the placement of the validation notice and that the fact the letter came from a law firm would not confuse a least sophisticated consumer into thinking a legal action was imminent.

With respect to the claim of a lack of meaningful attorney involvement, however, Judge Matsumoto chose not to side with either party’s argument. The defendant argued that there is nothing in the record to suggest that attorneys were not meaningfully involved while the plaintiff claimed that the text of the letter, which stated, “”in making this demand, we [Grossman & Karaszewski, PLLC] are relying entirely on information provided by our client” makes it appear as though no attorney reviewed the information before the letter was sent.

“Though plaintiff does provide evidence that casts doubt on the law firm’s meaningful involvement, plaintiff does not offer admissible evidence that an attorney was not meaningfully involved,” Judge Matsumoto wrote. “Neither has defendant provided evidence that there was meaningful involvement by an attorney, such as a declaration by an attorney, or by providing documentation that lawyers used their professional judgment in forming an opinion about how to manage the case or making the decision to send said letter.”

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