Jones, Wolf & Kapasi, LLC (“JWK”) recently defeated a motion to dismiss in a New Jersey class action, 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), case against a debt collector called AR Resources (“ARR”). Plaintiff alleged that ARR sent him, and a putative class of New Jersey consumers, a debt collection letter, regarding a medical debt, which violated the FDCPA by overshadowing or contradicting his statutory right to dispute the debt (the “Validation Notice”) because it included the following language: “If you carry any insurance that may cover this obligation, please contact our office at the toll-free number above.”(the “Insurance Language”). Any dispute of Plaintiff’s debt, to be effective in the Third Circuit (which encompasses New Jersey) must be in writing, as opposed to by telephone as set forth in ARR’s debt collection letter.
As stated by the District Court:
“Here…I find that the Insurance Language contradicts the Validation Notice, because the least sophisticated debtor could reasonably read the Insurance Language as providing that he or she need not dispute a debt in writing, and thus, the Insurance Language could confuse or mislead the debtor into foregoing his or her statutory right to dispute a debt. Significantly, § 1692g(a)(3), as interpreted by the Third Circuit, requires debt collectors to include within the validation notice a statement advising the debtor that the debt will be assumed as valid unless, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, the debtor ‘disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof,’ in writing…Stated differently, to comply with § 1692g, a debtor collector must inform the debtor that, if the debtor seeks to dispute even a ‘portion’ of the debt, such a dispute must be in writing to be effective. Viewed in this context, the Court finds that the least sophisticated debtor could reasonably interpret the Insurance Language as providing that, to the extent the debtor believes that an insurance provider is responsible for payment of a portion of the debt (e.g., if the debtor only believes he or she is responsible for a co-payment), that the debtor may dispute that portion of the debt obligation by calling Defendant, rather than disputing the debt in writing.” (internal citations omitted)
The case is Wayne Morello v AR Resources, Inc, 3:17-cv-13706 (FLW)(DEA) and the Court's Opinion can be read here.
For more information about Jones, Wolf & Kapasi, LLC, or if you have recently been contacted by a debt collection company, you are invited to connect with us at: legaljones.com; https://www.linkedin.com/company/jones-wolf-&-kapasi-llc or @JonesWolfKapasi.