Judge Denies MTD in FDCPA Class Action Over Continuance Requests in Underlying Collection Suits

A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit claiming it allegedly violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by engaging in a “policy and practice of seeking a continuance in a state-court debt-collection action by falsely representing, on the day of the hearing, that it needs a continuance to procure a witness for the hearing.”

A copy of the ruling in the case of McClellan v. Patenaude & Felix can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendant argued in its motion that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they did not suffer an injury that was particularized or concrete. But Judge Nicholas Ranjan of the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that they have incurred additional expenses, fees, and costs because of the defendant’s allegedly improper conduct.

The defendant also attempted to argue that the claims brought by the plaintiffs are not violations of the FDCPA. The plaintiffs claim the defendant violated Sections 1692e(5), 1692e(10), and 1692d of the FDCPA because the defendant “never has any intention of procuring a witness, and simply uses this as an excuse to delay the proceedings at Plaintiffs’ expense.”

Judge Ranjan agreed with the plaintiffs that representing that it needs to procure a witness during a state court collection proceeding are plausibly false and misleading statements, but added that the discovery process “will shed light on whether this claim may survive summary judgment or succeed at trial, as the specific factual context of the communications will be relevant in determining whether the communications were harassing, oppressive, or abusive.”

Understanding the “actual motivations” of the defendant, the effect of the continuances on the plaintiffs, and the “precise communications” between the plaintiffs and the defendant “are all relevant considerations that may affect Plaintiffs’ claims,” Judge Ranjan wrote.

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