Judge Grants Defendant’s Motion for Sanctions in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge in Mississippi has granted a defendant’s motion for sanctions and ordered the plaintiff’s attorneys to repay the defendant for 16 months of legal fees in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Gordon v. United Medical Recovery can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff sued the defendant, alleging it violated the FDCPA when it sent him a letter in 2018 that did not include “in writing” requirement to notify the defendant of a dispute in the validation notice. But the plaintiff was sent a letter back in 2016 that contained the proper disclosure, and, the plaintiff — or someone on his behalf — contacted the defendant after the 2016 letter was sent, arranged for a payment plan, and made two payments on the account.

The plaintiff filed his lawsuit in April 2019. The defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings or to dismiss for summary judgment in September 2019. That motion included a declaration from an employee of the agency affirming the existence of the 2016 letter. Two months later, in November 2019, the defendant filed a supplemental declaration from the same employee with details about the payment plan and payments that were made after the 2016 letter was sent.

Since that supplemental declaration was filed, the plaintiff’s attorneys did not proceed with litigating the case and said that they were unable to contact the plaintiff to discuss the supplemental information.

Two hearings were held earlier this year, in which it was confirmed that the plaintiff had abandoned his lawsuit and plaintiff’s counsel filed a motion to withdraw from the case. The defendant filed a motion for sanctions, arguing that the case was frivolous and without any basis in fact or law. While the judge disagreed whether the case was legally groundless, he did agree that it was factually groundless.

Ultimately, the plaintiff’s attorneys failed to “conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts supporting the Complaint,” ruled Judge Henry Wingate of the District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Judge Wingate awarded attorneys’ fees from the date on which the supplemental declaration was submitted to when the case was dismissed.

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