When a collector is informed that a consumer is being represented by an attorney, there are not many exceptions allowing the collector to contact the consumer directly. One of those exceptions is when the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from a debt collector. But how long is reasonable? A District Court judge in Georgia has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss all claims except for one in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling that not responding within eight months is not something that can be resolved at this stage in the case.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Lee v. Medicredit can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant in regards to an unpaid hospital bill. More than a month later, an attorney representing the plaintiff sent a letter to the collector, notifying the defendant that the plaintiff was disputing the debt and that she was being represented and that all future communications should be directed to him. The collector sent a letter back to the attorney, confirming receipt of the notification and indicating that the dispute was being investigated. Six days later, the defendant sent the attorney a letter requesting more information about the debt. A week after that, the defendant sent the attorney another letter, again requesting more information and asking the attorney to contact the agency.
Eight months later, the defendant contacted the plaintiff directly, requesting that the plaintiff contact her insurance company and ask them to pay the debt.
Four months after that, another attorney contacted the defendant, submitting a pre-suit demand letter, saying the defendant violated the FDCPA when it contacted the plaintiff directly. The defendant sent the original attorney another letter, again requesting for more information.
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Sections 1692e(2)(A), 1692f(1), 192f, 1692g, and 1692c of the FDCPA.
Judge R. Stan Banker of the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia dismissed all the counts except for the 1692c(a)(2) claim, in which the plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated the FDCPA when contacted her directly after the original attorney failed to respond to the requests for more information. At this stage of the proceedings, he said, there is not enough information to determine whether the defendant’s claim is true.