Judge Grants MSJ in Separate FDCPA Suit Filed Over Same Account

A District Court judge in Missouri has granted a defendant’s motion for summary judgment after a plaintiff filed two separate lawsuits related to two different collection letters that she received five months apart attempting to collect on the same debt.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Branum v. Midland Credit Management can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff received two separate collection letters — one in February 2020 and one in July of the same year. In October, she filed suit on the first letter, and the court subsequently granted a motion to compel arbitration that was filed by the defendant. Following that ruling, the plaintiff filed a separate lawsuit related to the second letter, and conceded that the case should be arbitrated like the first, but done so separately. The defendant objected to two arbitrations, arguing that it would double the administrative fees, attorney fees, and possibly result in multiple damage awards for the plaintiff.

The defendant noted that the plaintiff could have included both claims when she filed her first lawsuit, which was filed months after receiving the second letter. The plaintiff claimed that separation was necessary because of different theories of liability, notably the second letter was sent after a state of emergency had been declared as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — a state of emergency that was not yet in place when the first letter was sent.

Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. of the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, wasn’t buying the plaintiff’s argument. “It is clear that causes of action arise out of the same nucleus of operative facts, as both cases revolve around defendant’s attempt to collect on plaintiff’s Lowes credit account,” he wrote. “Thus, it appears plaintiff’s tactic is at best an attempt to evade the statutory cap on recovery and does not arise from a different nucleus of operative fact.”

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