What is in a name, Shakespeare asked when he wrote “Romeo & Juliet.” His intention was to illustrate that how things are named really doesn’t matter. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet,” Juliet says in the play. While that maybe true, in this day and age, the name you use matters a great deal. A plaintiff recently found that out when a District Court judge in Washington granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Campbell v. Puget Sound Collections can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff, Angela Campbell, got married in 2018. A year later, she bought a house with her new husband and listed her name as Angela Feldmann. In May 2020 — about two months before she had her marriage annulled — she went to the emergency room. The hospital sent a letter two days later saying that a portion of the bill from the visit was being rejected. The letter was sent to Angela Campbell, possibly because she had never updated her insurance information. Rather than contact the hospital and say that her name was incorrect — a call that likely would have cleared everything up — the plaintiff did nothing. The debt was then placed with the defendant, when sent a collection letter to Angela Feldmann, using the name it was provided by the hospital. The plaintiff had her attorney respond to the agency, and despite a number of communications, a resolution with respect to the unpaid debt was never reached. Instead, the plaintiff sued the agency, accusing it of violating the FDCPA and the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiff accused the defendant of violating Sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA.
The judge — Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez of the District Court for the Western District of Washington — was admittedly confused about the whole situation.
“The Court does not know exactly what to make of this case,” Judge Martinez wrote. “Plaintiff’s debt should not have been sent to collection. Defendant PSC does not appear to have made any error given the information reasonably available to it, rather the erroneous collection was a simple mistake due in part to Plaintiff’s failure to update her insurer of her name change, her inaction after being billed, and the apparent subterfuge of her attorney.”
The defendant did ask the judge for sanctions against the plaintiff and her attorney, but he declined to grant the request.