SDNY Judge Dismisses FDCPA Case Over Dispute Language in Letter

A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for allegedly violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because of the language it used in a collection letter to indicate the methods in which the plaintiff could dispute the validity of the debt.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Kahn v. D&A Services can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant that included the following statement: “If you dispute the debt, or any part thereof, or request the name and address of the original creditor in writing within the thirty-day period, the law requires our firm to suspend our efforts to collect the debt until we mail the requested information to you.” The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the statement makes it appear as though disputing the debt or any part thereof could be done orally or in writing and that only asking for the name and address of the creditor had to be done in writing. Thus, any dispute of the debt, regardless of how it was made, would cause the defendant to cease attempting to collect, according to the plaintiff’s complaint.

After first disagreeing with the defendant that the plaintiff had standing to file his lawsuit, Judge Vincent Briccetti of the District Court for the Southern District of New York then tackled the claims that the defendant violated the FDCPA.

But the statement does not violate Section 1692g(b) or 1692e(10) of the FDCPA, Judge Briccetti ruled , because even a least sophisticated consumer is required to read the contents of a collection letter in its entirety. “… it is clear that both a dispute of the debt and a request for the original creditor’s name and address must be done in writing,” Judge Briccetti wrote. To make sure, Judge Briccetti closes his ruling with a lesson in grammar. “Neither the use of commas around ‘or any part thereof’ nor the second ‘or’ splits the sentence into two,” he wrote. “Rather, the phrase ‘or any part thereof,’ which is offset by commas, is simply a modifier for the preceding word, ‘debt.’ And the second ‘or’ properly identifies two distinct actions that must be done in writing to take effect.”

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