Judge Denies Class Certification Motion in FDCPA Case

A District Court judge in Indiana has denied a plaintiff’s motion to certify a class in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawsuit, ruling that the agreement between the plaintiff and his attorney renders the plaintiff an inadequate representative for the entire class while also criticizing the plaintiff’s attorney “regarding the work that counsel has done to identify and investigate potential claims.”

A copy of the ruling in the case of Dixon v. Jefferson Capital Systems can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff sued the defendants, alleging they violated the FDCPA and Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act by sending a collection letter that did not disclose that the statute of limitations on the debt had expired. The plaintiff made a partial payment on the debt and arranged to make continued payments without that knowledge.

While going through the requirements to certify a class, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana noted that the agreement between the plaintiff and his attorney includes a contractual obligation for the plaintiff to pay the attorney’s fees and costs if the case is resolved in any manner other than a class action, if the case is not successful, or if the plaintiff declines a settlement offer against the advice of his attorneys. When he was deposed, the plaintiff admitted he would not be able to pay those fees if he was required to do so.

How can the plaintiff “independently act as a fiduciary of the class in light of his potential liability to class counsel,” pondered Judge Magnus-Stinson. Ultimately, Judge Magnus-Stinson ruled, he can’t, and ruled that the plaintiff had not met the adequacy requirement of class certification.

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