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United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Debtor’s Lawsuit Alleging Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

April 2021

White and Williams attorneys successfully defended the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit filed against a multi-state law firm in the business of collecting debts. A debtor filed a putative class action alleging that the letter she received from the law firm was deceptive because it invited her to call the firm if she wanted to “eliminate further collection action.” Specifically, she contended that under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the invitation to call was deceptive because it could cause a debtor to forgo her rights to have the debt collector validate the debt and stop collection activities, because to trigger those rights the debtor must make a written request.

In the District Court, White and Williams attorneys convinced the court that the letter was not deceptive and complied with the requirements of the FDCPA. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit agreed. The Third Circuit noted that the debt collector included the statutorily required language informing the debtor of her rights under the FDCPA and how to claim those rights. Furthermore, it found that the debt collector never asserted explicitly or implicitly, that a phone call would legally require the debt collector to stop its collection efforts,

The Third Circuit also rejected the debtor’s contention that the inclusion of the invitation to call immediately before the legally mandated validation notice overshadowed her validation rights because it was unclear whether she could exercise her validation rights by writing or by phone call. The panel said, the debtor “sees confusion where none exists.” It flatly rejected that the order of the paragraphs created any confusion.

The court’s decision is a reported, precedential decision, and resolves a split among federal district courts in Pennsylvania on this issue.

Ed Koch and Marc Penchansky successfully represented Patenaude & Felix APC in this matter at the district court and appellate court.

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