Judge Denies MSJ in FDCPA Case Over Cease Request

A District Court judge in Pennsylvania has denied a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that “reasonable juror” could determine that a collector acted with “requisite intent” when it made 12 calls to an individual after being notified that the individual no longer wanted to be contacted about an unpaid debt because he had been diagnosed with cancer.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Beedle v. Professional Bureau of Collections of Maryland can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff co-signed a student loan so his son could attend automotive school. After making payments on the debt for a number of months, the plaintiff said he sent a letter in with one of his payments informing the defendant he would not be able to pay the full amount owed because he had cancer. He also claimed in the letter that the calls being made by the defendant were harassing and asked the defendant to stop calling him. A representative of the defendant called the plaintiff and during the ensuing phone call, the plaintiff again said he did not want to be contacted about the debt. The representative said, “I will put that on the account you don’t want us to contact you, okay?” and noted the account that the plaintiff did not want to be contacted.

Nonetheless, the defendant made 12 more calls to the plaintiff, attempting to contact him at work and on his cell phone. The plaintiff retained counsel, who sent a letter of representation to the defendant and asked for the defendant to cease and desist all communication. The defendant, arguing that it never received the letter, made at least three calls to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Sections 1692c(c), 1692d and 1692d(5) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under Section 1692d(5) of the FDCPA, the collector must demonstrate an intent to harass, abuse, or annoy an individual through evidence of the calling pattern and frequency. But, as in this case, when the individual has asked the collector to stop calling, an intent to harass may be inferred, noted Judge Harvey Bartle of the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“PBCM repeatedly contacted Beedle after Beedle’s repeated requests for PBCM to stop calling him,” Judge Bartle wrote in denying the defendant’s motion. “On August 1, 2019, Beedle told an agent of PBCM that he felt PBCM’s calls were harassing and that he did not want to receive any more of them. Still, PBCM’s internal data reflects that it called Beedle on at least twelve occasions after this notation. Viewing these facts in the light most favorable to Beedle, the court finds that there exists a genuine dispute of material facts as to whether PBCM acted with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass Beedle under § 1692d(5). Likewise, because a reasonable juror could infer that PBCM acted with the requisite intent, there exists a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the natural consequences of PBCM’s conduct in contacting Beedle were to harass, oppress, or annoy him.”

As well, even though the plaintiff could not produce the letter that was sent to the defendant notifying it that the plaintiff was being represented by an attorney, he put forth “sufficient” evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact that was best suited for a jury to decide, Judge Bartle ruled.

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