Judge Grants Defendant’s MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Alleged Disputed Debt

A District Court judge in Oregon has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the plaintiff claimed never to have received a demand letter to recover an unpaid credit card debt and because the defendant is allowed to rely on information supplied to it by the creditor.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Johnson v. Suttell & Hammer can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff took out a credit card and, after a few years, stopped making payments on the debt. After the payments stopped, the plaintiff sent dispute letters to different addresses associated with the credit card issuer, and received correspondence back from the issuer with information about where and how disputes about a debt should be directed.

Months later, the defendant sent a demand letter to the plaintiff, using the address associated with the account. The defendant, two months later, filed a collection lawsuit in state court seeking to recover the unpaid balance.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, accusing it of violating Sections 1692e(2)(a), 1692e(5), and 1692e(10) of the FDCPA. The plaintiff claimed never to have received the demand letter, but as Magistrate Judge Vjjohn V. Acosta of the District Court for the District of Oregon noted, it is not a requirement of the FDCPA for a collector to confirm that a notice was received — only to be able to prove that it was sent. The plaintiff did not, for example, provide no evidence that mail sent to the address used by the defendant was returned as undeliverable.

The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant should be aware of the disputes that were filed, but, as Judge Acosta wrote, those disputes “did not challenge that she opened the account or was responsible for the charges.” Meanwhile, the defendant submitted bank statements showing that the plaintiff made payments on the account.

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