The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld a summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant that was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, determining that the subjective nature of whether an attorney conducted a meaningful review of an account before deciding whether to file a collection lawsuit or not is sufficient and that a disclosure was not required indicating whether an attorney was meaningfully involved in collecting the underlying debt.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Felberbaum v. Mandarich Law Group can be accessed by clicking here.
The plaintiff received a collection letter from the defendant, which was printed under the firm’s letterhead. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the letter violated the FDCPA because it did not include a disclosure informing her that her validation rights were not being overshadowed because her account had been placed with a law firm, and because no attorney was meaningfully involved in collecting the debt.
A District Court judge granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that there were no reference to any consequence should the plaintiff choose not to repay the debt. “Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, the mere fact that a Collection Letter is printed on law firm letterhead does not, by itself, imply an immediate threat of legal action overshadowing a validation notice in violation of the FDCPA,” the District Court judge wrote.
The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the attorney who sent the letter could have spent less than one minute reviewing her file before making any decisions and that some form of disclaimer should be required.
The Second Circuit pointed out that it has not established a minimum timeframe for determining what constitutes a meaningful amount of involvement and it has no plans to start now.
“We have never established a specific minimum period of review time to qualify as meaningful attorney involvement, and the only function that Felberbaum has identified that Salyer did not perform before approving the letter was establishing a specific plan to sue in the event of non-payment,” the Appeals Court wrote.
Regarding the disclosure, there is nothing in the FDCPA that says such a notification is required, the Appeals Court noted. “We thus conclude that the FDCPA did not require Mandarich to provide a disclaimer in its initial collection letter to Felberbaum,” the Court wrote.