A California Appeals Court has overturned a ruling in favor of a debt collector that was sued for violating the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by not properly serving the plaintiff with a summons and complaint in an underlying collection lawsuit, with the panel ruling that the plaintiff is not obligated to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees of nearly $80,000.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Young v. Midland Funding can be accessed by clicking here.
Background: The plaintiff learned in 2019 that the defendant had obtained a default judgment against her in 2010. The plaintiff claims never to have been served with a summons or complaint. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated the RFDCPA. The defendant filed what is known as an anti-SLAPP (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) motion, which is intended to provide for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits. A state court judge ruled in favor of the defendant, determining that the plaintiff did not establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of her case. The judge ordered the plaintiff to cover the defendant’s attorney’s fees, after which the plaintiff appealed the ruling.
The Appeal: In overturning the original ruling, the Appeals Court determined that the plaintiff had shown she would likely prevail, and that the lower court’s ruling was based on technicalities — the plaintiff did not proffer evidence that she was a consumer, that the defendant was a debt collector, and that the underlying debt was a consumer debt. The plaintiff provided enough evidence to show that service of the summons was not effected.