It's become all too common for debtors to file specious Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuits. In Berkseth v. Continental Credit, Inc., the debtors filed a FDCPA complaint over a straightforward collection letter stating that the debtors owe money to a collection agency. 119 F. Supp.3d 1316, 1319 (M.D. Fla. 2015). The letter stated as follows:
We are a collection agency. We have been asked by our client – Blue Tree Resort – to collect the money which they claim you owe them, $1,829.68. Please remit this amount or present your defense against this claim within thirty (30) days.
If you do not pay the claim or dispute it within thirty (30) days, we will assume the debt is valid. If you require additional information regarding this claim, notify us within thirty (30) days and we will provide verification, a copy of any judgment against you, or the name address of the original creditor if it is different from the current creditor.
If you do not understand this notice, call or consult with someone who can assist you in this regard.
The debtors alleged in their FDCPA complaint “that this straightforward letter was too similar to legal process and was ultimately misleading, deceptive, and overshadowed the notice of rights contained therein.” Id. In responding to the debtors’ complaint, the collection agency filed a motion to dismiss or alternatively one for summary judgment. Id. at 1317.
In response to the motion, the debtors asserted that the letter was deceptive as it resembled a legal summons and deceptively indicated that the debtors must defend a lawsuit. Id. at 1320. The District Court did not agree with this argument and, in granting summary judgment in favor for the collection agency, made findings that “[w]hile a debt collection letter shares some trappings with legal process, as any communication regarding a debt owed likely would, that is not enough to be misleading to even the least sophisticated consumer.” Id.
This case shows how far some debtors and their counsel will go in filing questionable FDCPA lawsuits; even if it means filing a lawsuit over a straightforward collection letter.
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