Judge Denies MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Status of Verification Letter

Is a debt verification letter, sent in response to a dispute from an individual, an attempt to collect on a debt? A District Court judge in Georgia has ruled it is, denying a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case

A copy of the ruling in the case of Bogatschow v. CF Medical can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff had a medical procedure at a healthcare facility. The plaintiff received an explanation of benefits from his insurance company explaining that the doctor and the facility had been paid in full. The plaintiff allegedly incurred a separate debt for the anesthesia, which was sold to the defendant for collection. The plaintiff claims to have never received an invoice or statement with regard to the anesthesia and that his EOB included a line item for it.

The plaintiff received a collection letter in regard to the anesthesia. The plaintiff disputed the debt and received a verification letter that detailed the balance for the services rendered, the name of the original creditor, the account number, and contact information for the defendants. It also included a disclosure that stated, “This communication is from a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the verification letter violated Sections 1692e(2)(a) and 1692f(1) of the FDCPA, while the defendants argued that the letter was not subject to the statute because it was not an attempt to collect on a debt.

But if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, Judge Marc T. Treadwell of the District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ruled that the letter is a duck.

The defendants attempted to argue that the verification letter did not make a demand for payment and did not detail any consequences if the debt was not paid, so how could it be a an attempt to collect on a debt?

“…because the letter says that it is an attempt to collect a debt, lists the amount owed, names Bogatschow as the party responsible for the amount owed, and was sent from a law office tasked with collecting the debt, the Court cannot rule as a matter of law that the February 20 letter was not a communication sent in connection with the collection of a debt,” Judge Treadwell wrote in denying the motion for summary judgment.

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