Judge Grants MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Mis-Identified Consumer

An interesting Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case out of Minnesota involving a creditor who mis-spelled a customer’s first and last name when placing the account with a law firm for collection, a customer who changed her name before filing for bankruptcy protection, and a law firm that may or may not do enough collection work to be defined as a collector under the FDCPA. Ultimately, a District Court judge granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, applying a Second Circuit test to determine that the law firm did not engage in enough debt collection work to conclude that it “regularly” collects or attempts to collect debts owed to someone else.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Crandall v. Miller & Stevens can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed her suit after receiving a collection letter from the defendant in regards to an unpaid debt for a new roof that was installed on her residence. The plaintiff — who was named Lynda Fisher when the roof was installed, but later changed her name to Lynda Crandall — was referred to by the creditor as Linda Fischer. Thus the name on the original collection letter and the subsequent lawsuit that was filed used the wrong name. The defendant was also notified when the plaintiff filed for bankruptcy protection, but nobody at the firm picked up on the name change.

Regardless of the errors made by the original creditor, the defendant ultimately did not engage in enough collection activity to meet the FDCPA’s definition of a debt collector, ruled Judge Eric Tostrud of the District Court for the District of Minnesota. Applying the test set forth by the Second Circuit in Goldstein v. Hutton, Ingram, Yuzek, Gainen, Carroll & Bertolotti, Judge Tostrud determined that the 33 collection cases worked by the defendant in 2019 — when this activity took place — “represented a small fraction” of the defendant’s overall business. Looking at each prong of the Goldstein test, Judge Tostrud ruled “it would be unreasonable” to determine that the defendant “regularly collects debts.”

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