Pennsylvania Court Finds Plaintiff’s Collection Letter Interpretation “Bizarre and Idiosyncratic"


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Another success added to an increasing number of cases with courts concluding no FDCPA violation where letters are silent about interest accrual.

10/28/2019 9:00

While the attention may be focused on the Third Circuit’s recent sua sponte (on its own accord) order for en banc rehearing in the Riccio v. Sentry Credit, Inc. matter, other important victories are occurring at courts within the Third Circuit. Last week, the district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued an order agreeing with the defendant collection agency that the plaintiff’s interpretation of defendant’s collection letter is “bizarre and idiosyncratic.”

In Gardner v. Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., the plaintiff accused the defendant of violating Section 1692(e) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because its collection letter allegedly “falsely stated or implied that the balance was subject to increase” because it contained the phrase “balance due as of” and listed the balance twice. Defendant pursued an aggressive defense strategy and moved for Judgment on the Pleadings arguing that the letter does not misrepresent the debt because “interest was not accruing – Plaintiff’s debt was static – and the letter’s language does not imply otherwise.”

The court agreed. In a short 11-page decision, the judge succinctly dismantled the plaintiff’s argument that the language in the letter implied that the balance might increase and was therefore misleading because debtors would be incentivized to pay off the debt sooner. “Plaintiff was not misled into believing a payment would clear his account. On the contrary, paying the balance in Defendant’s letter would clear Plaintiff’s account,” the judge wrote in his opinion (emphasis in original). 

While the court stopped short of finding the plaintiff’s lawsuit frivolous, the flood of anecdote and criticism overflowed in this decision. The bonus in the opinion, however, is the court’s citation to many other opinions from courts across the country “acknowledging lawyers’ attempts to use the least sophisticated consumer standard to exploit the FDCPA through ‘creative’ litigation,” the judge wrote in his opinion.  

The court’s decision in this case stems from a long line of cases on the “static v. dynamic debt” issue since the Second Circuit’s decision in Taylor v. Financial Recovery Services, Inc. In Taylor, the Second Circuit concluded that debt collectors were not required to explicitly state that a debt was not accruing interest. This case snowballed into a number of other courts concluding similarly that collection letters do not violate the FDCPA despite stating “balance due as of” and omitting any information regarding interest.

ACA is proud of the effort put forth by its member, Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., in this lawsuit. Because of their vigorous prosecution, ACA members and the accounts receivable management industry in general have another great opinion to cite in defense of lawsuits attacking collection letters based on bizarre and idiosyncratic theories.

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