Attorneys for Debt Buyers beware…they are on to us!

I love defending people against debt buyers because the Plaintiffs case is as strong as a house of cards in a hurricane. Debt buyers buy judgments, credit card charge offs and other sordid garbage debt for pennies on the dollar. Hell, there are even debt buyers that buy debt that has already been through a collection agency or two. Usually, when a debt buyer purchases his paper, he gets little more than the judgments or a spreadsheet showing the balances due. What does this mean for the consumer that is sued? Everything. The debtor buyer has no proof that the consumer owes anything other than some shmoe’s word for it that the debt was owed in the first instance. Recently, someone got wise to the idea that an attorney who sues on this crap and does not have the goods to show that the debt is actually owed, may be violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I can’t wait to share this case with you.
In Isom v Javitch Block and Rathbone (“Javitch”), the defendant is a law firm that had sued Ms. Isom in state court for a debt that was purchased by some company called Direct Merchants. Javitch attached an affidavit to its complaint that had been prepared by Direct Merchants. When Ms. Isom demanded discovery in the state court case, Javitch simply dismissed the case. Why? Because it did not have any proof to show that its client was entitled to any money from Ms. Isom. Now, its Ms. Isom’s turn.
She sued Javitch in federal court and asked for class action status. She alleged that because Javitch had sued her without having any documentation to show that she owed the debt that Javitch had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Ms. Isom alleged in her complaint that Javitch attached a false affidavit signed by Direct Merchants that said that Direct Merchants had personal knowledge of the balance due by Ms. Isom. The court held that because Ms. Isom alleged fraud her complaint against Javitch, that she has enough of a case to go to trial. The court denied Javitch’s Motion to Dismiss Ms. Isom’s claim.
In analyzing Ms. Isom’s case, the court noted two lines of cases that dealt with the issue of whether a debt collector violates the FDCPA by suing a debtor without having substantial supporting documentation for its case. In Delawder v Platinum Financial, the U.S. District Court denied the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. In Delawder, the Plaintiff alleged that the debt collector had committed fraud because the affidavit in support of its case misrepresented the amount of the debt or the debt collector’s legal claim upon the debt.
The second line of cases involved Harvey v Great Seneca Financial in which the Plaintiff alleged that the filing of a suit to collect a consumer debt without the means of proving that debt was a violation of the FDCPA. The court in Harvey dismissed the action stating that Plaintiffs do not need to prove their cases at the time that the lawsuit is filed. However, in Harvey, the Plaintiff did not allege that the affidavit attached was false.
In Ms. Isom’s case, she alleged that the affidavit that was attached to the complaint against her in state court was false. She alleged that there was no way that the Plaintiff had “personal knowledge” of her debt to the original creditor. The court found that Ms. Isom’s case should proceed to trial on the issue of whether the Defendant’s affidavit was false and if so, whether it violated sections 1692e and 1692f of the FDCPA; the Act’s prohibitions against false or misleading representations and against unfair collection practices, respectively.
Javitch pled to the court that it should not be held responsible for an affidavit that its client had signed in support of the complaint. Judge Barrett would have no part of that argument. Javitch’s attempt to side step the FDCPA bullet was foiled when Judge Barrett correctly pointed out that it was Javitch that signed the complaint and attached the affidavit in support of its complaint. Javitch, as a third party collector, has to take responsibility for its own actions.
ATTORNEYS FOR DEBT BUYERS BEWARE. Remember that you are responsible to verify that the debt and every part of the debt that you are collecting is legitimate. The days of suing debtors without having proper documentation and hoping for a default judgment is like playing Russian Roulette. You are bound to piss off some debtor who reads my blog and knows his rights. Now, you have to doubly (if there is such a word), that the affidavit that you are attaching to your complaint is accurate. The FDCPA makes you a guarantor of sorts that the affidavit is bona fide.

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 4th, 2008 and is filed under Debt Collection Tricks and Traps . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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