You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. Debt collectors are often accused of not providing enough documentation when filing lawsuits against consumers for unpaid debts, but can even be accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when they do provide all the documentation that is required. In a case that was defended by Rick Perr at Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck, a District Court judge in Pennsylvania has granted a defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings after it was accused of violating the FDCPA by including a copy of a contract to purchase an RV among the documents filed in an underlying collection lawsuit without the proper confidentiality requirements.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Berger v. Weltman, Weinberg & Reis can be accessed by clicking here.
The defendant filed a collection lawsuit against the plaintiff. Among the documents that were included with the complaint was a copy of the sales contract. The plaintiff turned around and sued the defendant, alleging it violated Sections 1692e, 1692e(8), 1692e(10), 1692f, 1692f(8), and 1692d of the FDCPA because it did not file the contract under a cover sheet to maintain its confidentiality, which is required for certain documents under Pennsylvania state law.
But the provision of the law cited by the plaintiff requires that “loan application documents” be filed under a cover sheet, not the actual contract. The contract did not include the plaintiff’s Social Security number, banking information, tax returns, credit scores, wage information, or anything else that would need to be kept confidential, noted Judge Yvette Kane of the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Even if the contract was confidential, violating a state procedural requirement is not a violation of the FDCPA “unless there is also a violation of an FDCPA provision,” Judge Kane noted. The plaintiff attempted to invoke Douglass as a precedent, but Judge Kane noted the differences between that case and this one, ruling that including the contract in its complaint did not constitute “unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt.”