Judge Rules for Defendant in FDCPA Case Over Dispute Response

A District Court judge in North Carolina has granted a defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling that the plaintiff’s expectation for what he should have received when he disputed the debt was well beyond what the defendant had to provide under the statute and existing case law.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Green v. Smith, Debnam, Drake, Saintsing & Myers can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received a letter from the defendant, attempting to collect on an unpaid credit card debt. The letter included information about the debt — identifying the creditor and including the past-due balance — and also included a validation notice. The plaintiff responded, disputing the debt and requesting validation, including all charges, payments, and credits on the account. The defendant responded with a letter, that provided information about the original creditor and the balance on the unpaid debt. The plaintiff sent another letter to the defendant, asking for the original account agreement, all original account level documentation, and a “wet ink” signature of the obligation. Rather than reply, the defendant filed a collection lawsuit against the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the collection lawsuit violated the FDCPA and North Carolina state law because it “unjustly” condemned and vilified the plaintiff for his non-payment.

The basis of the plaintiff’s suit is that the defendant did not validate his dispute with “account level documentation.” The problem, noted Judge Max O. Cogburn of the District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is that the defendant is not obligated under the FDCPA to provide such information. “Verification only requires a showing that the amount demanded ‘is what the creditor is claiming is owed,’ not conclusive proof of the debt,” Judge Cogburn wrote.

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