Eastern District of Missouri Holds Self-Serving Allegations Insufficient to Avoid Summary Judgment on FDCPA Claim
In Campbell v. Credit Protection Ass'n, L.P.
, No. 4:12CV00289AGF, 2013 WL 1282348 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 27, 2013), the Eastern District of Missouri granted summary judgment in favor of a debt collector on a debtor's claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") based upon the debt collector's collection letter and credit reporting activities, holding that a debtor must come forward with evidence beyond self-serving allegations to avoid summary judgment. The defendant in Campbell
, a debt collector named Credit Protection Association, sent the plaintiff-debtor a collection letter attempting to collect a debt owed by the debtor. The debt collector also reported the debt to national credit bureaus. The debtor filed suit against the debt collector, alleging that it had violated the FDCPA by (1) operating under a confusing name that led her to believe it was a credit bureau rather than a debt collector, (2) failing to include a clear 1692e(11) disclaimer in the letter that it was a communication from a debt collector, and (3) failing to obtain authority from the original creditor to report the debt. The court rejected each of the debtor's claims. First, the court held that the name "Credit Protection Association" was not so confusing as to lead the least sophisticated consumer to believe that it was a credit bureau rather than a debt collector, particularly in light of the fact that it had sent collection letters to the debtor. Second, the court held that the debt collector's collection letter was not false, deceptive, or misleading with respect to whether it was from a debt collector. Although the letter did not include the precise language of 1692e(11), the letter stated that it was an attempt to collect a debt. The court held that, under Eighth Circuit precedent, the least sophisticated consumer would understand a letter containing this language as coming from a debt collector. Finally, the court held that the debtor's claim based on failure to obtain authority from the original creditor to report the debt failed as a matter of law, for 1692e(9) only prohibits a debt collector from reporting a debt when expressly prohibited by the original creditor. Because the debt collector did not represent that it had express authority to report the debt, and because the debtor had no evidence that the original creditor prohibited the debt collector from reporting the debt, the debt collector's credit reporting was not false, deceptive, or misleading. The court also noted that a debtor's "own self-serving allegations of confusion" are not enough to overcome a debt collector's motion for summary judgment. Rather, a debtor must come forward with extrinsic evidence, such as consumer surveys or expert testimony, to create a genuine issue of material fact as to the confusingness of a communication from a debt collector. For more information on consumer finance litigation topics, please contact one of the Burr & Forman team members for assistance. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.