What happens when a debt collector sends a letter to a lawyer on behalf of that lawyer’s debtor-client, and the letter potentially violates the FDCPA? According to one court in New York, nothing.
In White v. Fein, Such & Crane, LLP, three different consumers were sued by a debt collector to foreclose on their defaulted mortgages. In response, the consumers filed suit in New York under the FDCPA, alleging that the letters that were sent to each of the consumers itemized various fees and charges on the mortgage debt that were allegedly not authorized. The problem though, was that the letters were not sent directly to the debtors, but instead went to their lawyer. In response to the suit, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that any communications directed to a consumer’s attorney are not actionable under the FDCPA.
And the court agreed, relying on precedent both inside and outside the 2nd Circuit, concluding that “alleged misrepresentations to attorneys for putative debtors cannot constitute violations of the FDCPA.” In reaching this conclusion, the court reasoned that communications with attorneys are not covered by the FDCPA, because each consumer was already adequately protected from any illegal collection activity by his or her lawyer, and therefore, there was no reason to provide the further layer of protection of the FDCPA for consumers.
Though a good result, and likely the majority approach across the country, such a result cannot be guaranteed as some courts apply the FDCPA when a debt collector communicates with a consumer’s lawyer.
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