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Media Alerts - Russell v. Absolute Collection Services, Inc. - Fourth Circuit
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October 6, 2014
  Russell v. Absolute Collection Services, Inc. - Fourth Circuit
Headline: You Don't Need to Dispute Debt to File Suit Against "Dunning" Debt Collectors

Area of Law: Consumer Protection

Issue Presented: Whether a debtor is required to dispute her debt prior to filing suit against a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA").

Brief Summary: "Dunning" is a debt collection practice where debt collectors issue several notices to a debtor requesting payment for overdue bills. Diane Russell was a target of a "dunning" campaign waged by Absolute Collection Services, Inc., for medical services rendered to her husband. Russell notified Absolute Collection that she had already paid the debt directly to the service provider. Despite this notification, Absolute Collection continued to "dun" Russell with more collection calls and letters requesting payment. Absolute Collection also threatened to report Russell to national credit bureaus. The trial court ruled in favor of Russell, and Absolute Collection appealed. Absolute Collection argued that since Russell had not followed the debt verification procedures outlined in the FDCPA, Absolute Collection was permitted to assume the debt was valid and continue its collection attempts.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a debtor can bring suit against a debt collector even if he or she did not follow the debt verification procedures because the language of the Act clearly indicates that disputing a debt is optional and requiring a consumer to undertake such an action would "undermine the FDCPA's protection of unsophisticated debtors, who would have no reason to suspect that they would be prevented from filing suit."

To read the full opinion, please click here

Panel: Judges Diaz, Motz, and Floyd.

Argument Date: 04/11/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 08/15/2014

Docket Number: No. 12-2357

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Jamie Lee

Counsel: Sean T. Partrick, YATES, MCLAMB & WEYHER, LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant. Deepak Gupta, GUPTA BECK PLLC, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Allison J. Becker, Jennifer D. Maldonado, YATES, MCLAMB & WEYHER, LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant. Joanne Faulkner, New Haven, Connecticut; Suzanne R. Begnoche, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Floyd

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

Edited: 10/06/2014 at 12:43 PM by Renee Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 10/06/2014 12:26 PM     4th Circuit  

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