Judge denies debt collector's request for judgment in FDCPA case against it

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 22, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- A Pennsylvania man who received collection calls for a credit card debt but did not get a validation notice in the terms of the law has obtained a victory in court.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued a 10-page ruling on Jan. 7 denying summary judgment in the lawsuit filed by Grady Durnell against Stoneleigh Recovery Associates LLC.

Durnell sued Stoneleigh, alleging the debt collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in two provisions -- one that requires it to effectively provide a validation notice, and a second that prohibits collectors from using any false, misleading or deceptive representation when collecting a debt.

The verdict states, "Durnell incurred a debt from the use of a card for primarily personal, family and household purposes," that was sent to Stoneleigh, which "sent a letter to Durnell seeking to collect on the debt."

The letter contained the following notice:

"Unless you notify this office within thirty (30) days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you notify this office in writing within (30) days from receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt, or any portion thereof, this office will obtain verification of the debt or obtain a copy of a judgment and mail you a copy of such judgment or verification. If you request in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor."

In her ruling, Brody pointed at the ambiguous language of the notice, stating that "Because the validation notice can reasonably be read to have two different meanings, one of which is inaccurate — that a debtor can dispute the debt orally — the validation notice is deceptive."

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Case No. is 18-2335.

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