The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has upheld a summary judgment ruling in favor of a law firm that was accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by suing an individual who was allegedly responsible for a medical debt incurred by his wife, before they divorced.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Reddick v. Capouano, Beckman, Russell & Burnett can be accessed by clicking here.
It’s at this point that I normally try to provide some background details about the case, because usually the background details can be summarized in a few sentences. In this case, though, the background of the case takes more than 12 pages to summarize, so I don’t think I can adequately do it justice by using a few sentences to provide some details about what happened. But let me give it a go…
Suffice to say, a husband and wife had a family account with a dental practice. The dental practice considered the husband to be responsible for the account. The couple divorced and in the divorce settlement, the husband agreed to be responsible for any debts or liabilities. The husband was sued by the defendant years later, but the husband claimed the debt was incurred by his ex-wife after they separated. The husband sued the defendant, accusing it of violating Sections 1692e(2), 1692e(5), 1692e(10), and 1692f(1) of the FDCPA for taking action to collect a debt that the defendant knew the husband was not responsible for, and because the statute of limitations had expired.
A Magistrate judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, which the plaintiff appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.
After first making short work of affirming the lower court’s ruling that the defendant was ultimately responsible for his ex-wife’s debt, the Appeals Court turned to the issue of the statute of limitations. The plaintiff attempted to argue that the wrong statute of limitations was applied, and even if the original six-year statute was applied, that it was applied incorrectly, but the Eleventh Circuit saw it differently.
“Even viewing the record in light most favorable to [the plaintiff], there is no evidence demonstrating that the small claims lawsuit for collection of the [underlying] debt was filed outside of the six-year limitations period — either as an action to recover money upon an account stated or as an action to recover money upon [the plaintiff’s] breach of contract when he failed to pay following [the original creditor’s] September 2012 demand for payment — and
therefore time-barred in violation of the FDCPA,” the Appeals Court wrote.