Judge Certifies Class in FDCPA Suit

A District Court judge in California has certified a class in a case accusing a company that performs billing and collection services for a car rental company of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending letters from the billing arm of the company without the mini-Miranda notice.

A copy of the ruling in the case of DeNicolo v. Hertz Corp. et al can be accessed by clicking here.

The case involves situations where a vehicle rented by an individual sustains damage, for which the individual is liable. The accounts are placed with one of the defendants — Viking Billing Service — at which point the company sends a series of three collection letters that do not contain the mini-Miranda notice. If a payment is not made after those three letters are sent, the account is subsequently placed with Viking Client Services, which sends its own series of letters, each of which contains the mini-Miranda notice.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the first series of letters violates the FDCPA because it does not include a mini-Miranda notice. The defendant has argued that the violation is not subject to the FDCPA because the debt in question is not a consumer debt; the plaintiff rented the vehicle as part of a business trip and was reimbursed by his employer for the rental. But a judge has already denied a motion for summary judgment by the defense and in the ruling certifying the class, re-explained why the debt is subject to the FDCPA. Because the rental company does not ask whether an individual is renting a vehicle for business or personal reasons and because the plaintiff used his own credit card to rent the vehicle, there is not enough reason to indicate that the debt is not covered by the FDCPA.

The defendant attempted to raise the same defense in arguing against class certification, saying that it is impossible to know whether a class member rented a vehicle for business or personal reasons, but Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the District Court for the Northern District of California said that the defendant sought to collect the debt in question from the plaintiff, not his employer. Because the plaintiff was reimbursed for the debt does not change anything, she said.

The defendant also attempted to argue that the plaintiff and his attorney are friends and the plaintiff is not adequate as the class representative. Even though the plaintiff and his attorney live on the same block, have kids in the same grade in the same school, borrow tools from one another, and go out to dinner and for drinks together was not enough to persuade the judge.

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