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Recent Decision Notification: Ritter v. Cohen & Slamowitz LLP

Posted by Arnold A. Arpino | Aug 07, 2015 | 0 Comments

At least once per week, the Arpino Law Blog will post an interesting recent decision along with the holding, some facts, a discussion and conclusion. 

District Judge Arthur Spatt, Central Islip, New York.

Holding: Statements mailed to debtor satisfies verification requirement pursuant to FDCPA §1692(g), plaintiff's complaint dismissed in it's entirety.

Brief Factual History: In May of 2014, Cohen & Slamowitz (defendant)  sent a letter to Tracy Ritter (plaintiff) seeking to collect an alleged debt of $918.78 owed to Midland Funding LLC.   This letter indicated that the debt was purchased from Capital One Bank. Plaintiff, through counsel, responded to the initial demand letter by disputing the debt and requesting verification, alleging that she did not remember the debt, and alleged that she does not remember having any credit card with the issuing bank. The defendant provided approximately two years worth of account statements from the bank, showing that some payments were made partially satisfying the debt.   Thereafter, the parties exchanged six more communications, with the defendants claiming the debt has been verified under the FDCPA and the plaintiff denying same.  After two months of inaction by both parties, defendants filed a state action against plaintiff to recover the monies allegedly due.  The plaintiff filed suit thereafter alleging violations of 15 U.S.C. §1692 et seq.

Discussion: The Second Circuit has not spoken of what constitutes verification of the debt for complying with the verification requirement of the FDCPA.  However, there are District Courts in the circuit that have. Stonehart v. Rosenthal, 01-cv-651, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11566 (S.D.N.Y. Aug, 13, 2001), is relevant to the facts of the case presently before the Court.  In Stonehart, the court concluded that verification requires "only that the debt collector obtain a written statement that 'the amount being demanded is what the creditor is claiming is owed; the debt collector is not required to keep detailed files of the alleged debt.'" (quoting Chaudry v. Gallerizzo, 174 F.3d 394, 406 (4th Cir. 1998).  "Verification is only intended to 'eliminate the... problem of debt collectors dunning the wrong person or attempting to collect debts which the consumer has already paid.'"

Likewise, in Bascom v. Dubin, 03-cv-6160, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5349 (WDNY Jan. 25, 2007), the Court rejected the plaintiff's argument that "validation of a debt requires presentment of the account and a general ledger statement signed and dated by the person responsible for maintaining the account and original contract."

In the case at bar, plaintiff's debt already had been verified for purposes of the FDCPA. Plaintiff cannot forestall collection efforts by repeating the same unsubstantiated assertions and thereby contend that the debt is "disputed." If Plaintiff were permitted to do so, debtors would be able to prevent collection permanently by sending letters, regardless of their merit, stating that the debt is in dispute. Such a result is untenable, as it would make debts effectively uncollectible. Conclusion: For the reasons set forth above, the plaintiff's complaint is dismissed in it's entirety. 

Attorney for Plaintiff: Mitchell L. Pashkin, Esq., Huntington, NY.

Attorney for Defendant: Joseph L. Francoeur, Esq., Of Counsel, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP, New York, NY.

About the Author

Arnold A. Arpino

Arnold practices Creditor's Rights & Collections, Health Law, Real Estate, & Estate Planning.

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