Judge Denies Defendant’s Motion for Fees and Costs in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge in Wisconsin has denied a defendant’s motion for fees and costs in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, even though it won a summary judgment ruling and the plaintiff admitted owing the debt, not writing the dispute letters himself, and never following up to make sure the dispute letters were received, determining that the plaintiff did not act in bad faith when proceeding with his case.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Tolliver v. National Credit Systems can be accessed by clicking here.

Judge James D. Peterson of the District Court for the Western District of Washington last month granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, ruling that it was entitled to the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense because it never received dispute letters that were allegedly sent by the plaintiff. The defendant then filed to have the plaintiff pay its fees and costs, arguing that the suit was “patently frivolous.” The plaintiff didn’t write the dispute letters on his own and never followed up to make sure they were received; instead he just filed the lawsuit against the defendant. But none of that demonstrates that the plaintiff’s suit was frivolous, Judge Peterson ruled.

“Some of these admissions suggest that any harm to Tolliver was limited, but Tolliver didn’t rely on a theory of damages based on an incorrect amount of the debt or other actual damages,” Judge Peterson wrote. “Rather, Tolliver’s primary theory was that National Credit’s alleged violation subjected him to a risk of financial and reputational harm. The court ultimately rejected that theory, but Tolliver’s view of the law wasn’t frivolous.”

The defendant also accused the plaintiff of abusing the discovery process by making requests that were “oppressive” and “voluminous.” But the defendant couldn’t connect the dots to prove the requests were “so extreme that it justifies an award of attorney fees,” Judge Peterson wrote.

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