Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of FDCPA Suit Over Garnishment

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld the dismissal of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case in which a defendant was accused of violating the statute by garnishing the plaintiff’s wages to enforce a nonfinal judgment, ruling that alleging a violation of Washington’s state garnishment law is not a de facto violation of the FDCPA.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Anglin v. Merchants Credit Corp. can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff was sued for an unpaid and filed a counterclaim. A state court judge granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion and entered a judgment against the plaintiff, but did not resolve the counterclaim. While the counterclaim was pending, the defendant started garnishing the plaintiff’s wages. Subsequently, the defendant won the counterclaim as well. That led the plaintiff to file this lawsuit, alleging the defendant violated the FDCPA and the Washington Consumer Protection Act. A District Court judge dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim.

The plaintiff appealed, arguing that they stated an FDCPA claim by alleging a violation of the state garnishment law. But the Appeals Court saw it otherwise. “The issue is not whether Merchants and Woehler violated state law but whether they violated the FDCPA,” the Appeals Court wrote. “The Anglins do not address this question. … The Anglins might have argued that Merchants and Woehler falsely represented the legal status of their debt by implicitly claiming in the garnishment application that the debt was subject to a final judgment. But they do not make this argument, so it is waived.”

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