Judge Grants MTD in FDCPA Case Over Refusal to Pay Sent to Creditor

A District Court judge in California has granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss after it was sued for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending a verification letter after the plaintiff send the creditor a refusal to pay statement.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Norton v. Mandarich Law Group can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff defaulted on a healthcare credit card debt that was purportedly purchased by a debt buyer. The plaintiff wrote to the creditor, indicating that she was refusing to pay the debt and that it not contact her anymore. She wrote the same letter to the creditor two months later. A month after the second letter was sent, the plaintiff received a letter from the defendant, indicating that it was “in receipt of your request for verification of the above-referenced debt,” and provided verification information.

The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Sections 1692c(c) and 1692e of the FDCPA. However, under Section 1692c(c), the consumer has to notify the debt collector in writing that he or she is refusing to pay the debt and wants to cease communication. That didn’t happen in this case, noted Judge Jennifer L. Thurston of the District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiff “was obligated” to notify the defendant, Judge Thurston ruled in granting the motion to dismiss the 1692c(c) claim.

The plaintiff claimed that she never requested verification of the debt, making the information that the defendant sent to her where it said it was “in receipt of your request for verification of the above-referenced debt” a false statement and a violation of Section 1692e. Because there was nothing in the statement that “involved the amount, legal status, or character” of the plaintiff’s debt, the plaintiff could not claim to have been induced to pay the debt or pay an amount not owed, Judge Thurston wrote. Even a least sophisticated consumer would know if he or she made any request for verification, the judge noted, making the statement immaterial and granting the motion to dismiss the 1692e claim.

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