Judge Grants MSJ for Defendant in FDCPA Case Over Collection Letter

A District Court judge in New York has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was sued for a laundry list of alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in a letter that was sent to the plaintiff while also declining a motion from the plaintiff to strike an affidavit and supporting evidence that was submitted by the defendant.

A copy of the 51-page ruling in the case of Parker v. Mandarich Law Group can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant, informing her that the debt had been sold and assigned to the defendant’s client. The plaintiff alleged in her lawsuit that the letter failed to state the amount of debt that was owed, failed to correctly identify the current creditor to whom the debt was owed, that the format of the letter overshadowed the validation notice, and that the letter misled her into believing that an attorney was meaningfully involved in reviewing her account. The claims alleged violations of Section 1692g(a)(1), 1692g(a)(2), 1692g, 1692e, 1692e(2)(a), 1692e(10), and 1692e(3).

With respect to not stating the amount of the debt that was owed and not correctly identifying the current creditor, the plaintiff argued that she did not incur the debt and that the defendant did not come forward with any evidence to establish the existence of the debt. But all a least sophisticated consumer needs to do is read the letter to learn how much is owed and to whom, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled.

“…the court concludes that the least sophisticated consumer in plaintiff’s position would understand that she has a credit card, and she can match the account number for this credit card with the account number on the letter,” Judge Matsumoto wrote. “Here, plaintiff need not be an ‘expert on credit card processing’ to match the account number provided with the Raymour & Flanigan credit card ‘in her wallet that she used to  incur thousands of dollars in unpaid debt.’ ” 

The plaintiff did not provide any evidence to prove the debt wasn’t hers and Judge Matsumoto disagreed with the plaintiff’s claim that she couldn’t prove a negative because she couldn’t provide evidence showing she was a victim of identity theft of mistaken identity. “During discovery, plaintiff could have introduced evidence of any purported identity theft in the form of police reports, an FTC identity theft report, credit reports, contemporaneous billing records, reports to her credit card company, or other documents tending to show plaintiff did not accrue charges on the credit card at issue,” Judge Matsumoto wrote. “Because plaintiff failed to provide such evidence, she cannot now withstand defendant’s motion for summary judgment by switching the burden of proof to defendant or simply stating that she ‘cannot prove a negative.’ “

Judge Matsumoto made similar work of the plaintiff’s other claims, and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on all counts.

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