Appeals Court Overturns Dismissal of FDCPA Class-Action, Leaves Same Case Before Two Different Judges

It definitely seems like more of an “inside baseball” type of ruling, but the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has overturned the dismissal of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case — in which three separate appeals were filed — leaving the same case pending before two different judges in the same district and asking them to “sort out” how the cases should proceed.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Rodriguez v. Hirshberg Acceptance Corp., et al. can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed a class-action suit against the defendant, alleging it violated the FDCPA when it miscalculated the amount owed on a debt. As the case was progressing through discovery, both sides realized that another case before the Sixth Circuit — VanderKodde . Mary Jane Elliott, P.C. — would resolve most of the issues in their case. So both sides requested a stay. Rather than stay the case, the District Court judge chose to administratively close the case, instructing that either side could move to reopen the case within 14 days of a decision being rendered in VanderKodde.

In June 2020, four months after a ruling in VanderKodde was issued, the plaintiff moved to reopen this case. She said her counsel had mistakenly confused the deadline and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had thrown things for a loop. The District Court judge denied the motion. The plaintiff filed an appeal, but did so more than 30 days after the denial was issued.

Before filing her appeal, the plaintiff also sought clarification of the June 2020 order, and appealed that clarification as well, giving her two appeals before the Sixth Circuit.

The third appeal came after she filed a new complaint in Michigan state court, which the defendant removed to federal court — and was assigned to a different judge. The judge dismissed the case, ruling the dispute had already been settled on the first go-round. So the plaintiff appealed that ruling, too.

Ultimately, the District Court judge abused his discretion when he denied the plaintiff’s motion to reopen the case. If the judge “believed the proper remedy was to dismiss” the motion, it needed to do so in a different way then he did, the Appeals Court ruled.

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