Circuit Court Upholds Bona Fide Error Defense for ARM Firm in FDCPA Case

  • Email
  • Print
  • Printing Articles

    1. Click here to print!
    2. ...or print directly from your browser by choosing File > Print... from the menu or by pressing [Ctrl + P]. Our printer-friendly stylesheet will make sure extraneous website stuff isn't printed.
    3. You're done!

    Close this message.

  • Comments
  • RSS

A three-judge panel in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling granting summary judgment to a collection agency that used a bona fide error defense in case brought against it under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Circuit Court also upheld an award of certain costs to the defendant.

In the case, Isaac v. RMB, Inc., a couple sued the collection agency over calls placed to their residence. The Isaacs, in fact, were not the intended target of the debt collection activity. They sent a cease-and-desist letter to RMB asking that the calls stop.

But the calls did not stop immediately. The Isaacs continued to receive automated collection calls for at least two weeks after the letter was received. The Isaacs sued, pro se, arguing that the continued calls constituted harassment under the FDCPA and that RMB ignored their cease letter.

In the course of the case, RMB presented a bona fide error defense that the lower court judge, and ultimately the Eleventh Circuit, accepted.  RMB had two specifically trained employees who ordinarily processed cease-and-desist letters. Both employees were absent when RMB received the Isaacs’ cease-and-desist letter—one on maternity leave and the other with an unexpected illness. Although the calls continued for seventeen days after RMB received the letter, as soon as the letter was logged the calls ceased without further action by the Isaacs.

The 11th panel wrote, in an unpublished opinion, “The Magistrate Judge properly held that RMB’s policies and procedures were reasonably adapted to avoid the kinds of errors that occurred in this case, and that the errors did not occur in bad faith.”

The lower court judge in the case also awarded RMB the cost of filing a particular motion later in the case. In her first deposition, one of the plaintiffs refused to answer many of RMB’s questions and repeatedly objected that the questions were irrelevant. RMB was forced to file a motion compelling the plaintiff to attend a second deposition. The collection agency subsequently moved for costs associated with filing that motion, which the judge granted.

The plaintiffs in the case also appealed the judge’s decision to force her to appear a second time.

The Circuit Court found that her refusal to initially answer questions did not fall under any allowable exceptions and so she “wrongfully refused to answer nearly all of RMB’s questions.” The panel said that the magistrate judge had authority to compel her to attend another deposition and that the award of costs to RMB was also proper.

 

  • Email
  • Print
  • Printing Articles

    1. Click here to print!
    2. ...or print directly from your browser by choosing File > Print... from the menu or by pressing [Ctrl + P]. Our printer-friendly stylesheet will make sure extraneous website stuff isn't printed.
    3. You're done!

    Close this message.

  • Comments
  • RSS

Posted in Collection Laws and Regulations, Debt Collection, FDCPA, Featured Post .

×
Subscribe to our email newsletters

Continuing the Discussion

We welcome and encourage readers to comment and engage in substantive exchanges over topics on insideARM.com. Users must always follow our Terms of Use. Also know that your comment will be deleted if you: use profanity, engage in any kind of hate speech, post an incoherent or irrelevant thought, make a point of targeting anyone, or do anything else we find unsavory. Your comment will be posted under your current Display Name, shown below. If you'd like to change your Display Name, you must update it on the My Profile page.

  • avatar Sisko says:

    Did this consumer have an attorney? It seems like she took several un-advisable actions.

  • avatar Jennifer Bellworthy says:

    “The 11th panel wrote, in an unpublished opinion…” “Unpublished opinion” is the 11th Circuit saying, “we know this decision doesn’t comport with the law, and we are therefore screwing the consumer, so we don’t want to set a precedent.” If anything, saying the decision is “unpublished” means the decision is wrong.

Leave a Reply