Let this be a lesson that all is not lost if the judge rules against a debt collector at the summary judgment phase. The case at issue is Al v. Van Ru Credit Corp., No. 17-cv-1738 (E.D. Wisc.). Back in January, insideARM published an article about the judge denying defendant’s summary judgment motion, finding that the question of whether defendant’s letter was deceptive or misleading was best left to a jury. Well, the jury spoke and it found in Van Ru’s favor.
At issue in this case was whether instructing a consumer to act “promptly” confuses the consumer as to the time frame of the offer. The full sentence in the letter states:
The balance you owe as of the date of this letter is $462.31. Presently, we are willing to accept $277.39 to settle your account provided that you act promptly. We are not obligated to renew this offer.
The plaintiff also alleged that the phrase “we are not obligated to renew this offer” gives the impression that defendant could rescind the offer at any time without notice despite not being allowed to do so.
Despite the summary judgment denial (which included a denial of summary judgment on the bona fide error defense) and a class being certified, Van Ru continued the fight through trial. According to Van Ru's counsel at Messer Strickler, Ltd., the jury deliberated for 24 minutes before deciding that Van Ru's letter did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
When insideARM spoke to Nicole Strickler of Messer Strickler, Ltd., about the case, she commented:
Taking a case to trial is a tough decision for any company. But, when you have good facts, taking a case to trial can serve as a persuasive deterrent to mill consumer shops. We are proud to have represented Van Ru to a successful outcome in this case.