The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, determining that the defendant should not have been allowed to invoke the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Rockey v. Med-1 Solutions can be accessed by clicking here.
The defendant attempted to collect an unpaid debt from the plaintiff by sending collection letters to the address it received from the original creditor. But the plaintiff had moved to a new address. Both properties were owed by the plaintiff’s ex-husband, who was living at the address to which the letters were being sent. The ex-husband is also the plaintiff’s attorney in this case.
The ex-husband prepared and sent dispute and refusal to pay letter — signed by the plaintiff — to the defendant. The letter did not inform the defendant that the plaintiff was no longer living at the address.
The defendant mis-read the letter, instead treating it as a dispute and request for validation, not a refusal to pay.
The defendant sent another letter to the plaintiff at the original address and called the plaintiff’s phone three times, leaving messages each time.
The plaintiff filed suit, alleging the defendant violated Section 1692c(c) of the FDCPA by not ceasing communications after receiving the refusal to pay letter from the plaintiff. The defendant argued that the plaintiff lacked standing because she did not sustain a concrete injury and that it was entitled to the bona fide error defense. A judge denied a summary judgment motion filed by the plaintiff and granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion on the grounds that any violation of the FDCPA by the defendant was unintentional and covered by the bona fide error defense.
A mis-reading of the letter is a mistake of law, not of fact, the Appeals Court ruled. It’s not like someone attempted to enter in the correct code “and mistyped it or otherwise unknowingly entered the wrong code for the intended disposition,” the Appeals Court wrote.
One potential bright spot for the defendant comes in the form of a request by the Appeals Court to have the lower court address the issue of whether the plaintiff has standing to sue or not in the first place.