On July 30, a district court judge in the Southern District of California granted a defendant debt collector’s motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The Court held that the collection letters sent by Capital Management Services, LP (“CMS”) did not constitute violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the letters were sent to plaintiff Linda D. Swartzlander’s attorney, who bore the brunt of the debt collection communications, such that the protections of the FDCPA were no longer a concern.
At issue in the case were collection letters that CMS sent to Swartzlander’s bankruptcy attorney. These letters stated that CMS had been retained to resolve Swartzlander’s delinquent debt and that interest would continue to accrue. The letters provided statutory disclosures and procedures for disputing the debt.
CMS moved to dismiss on the basis that the Court of Appeals’ decision in Guerrero v. RJM Acquisitions LLC, controlled. In Guerrero, the Court noted that a “consumer and his attorney are not one and the same” and that the purpose of the FDCPA – to protect unsophisticated debtors from harassment – is not triggered when communications are directed to an attorney. Therefore, because the letters were addressed to and received by Swartzlander’s attorney, these communications were not actionable under the FDCPA.
Swartzlander attempted to distinguish the case from Guerrero, arguing that the letters were “sent to Plaintiff through her attorneys.” She cited the demand for payment and the fact that only she could dispute her debt in support. The Court was unpersuaded and held that reference in the letters to FDCPA rights or the fact that the letters were sent to Swartzlander’s bankruptcy attorney (rather than an attorney retained to handle debt collections) did not bring her claims within the FDCPA.
The Court dismissed Swartzlander’s FDCPA claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her remaining state law claims. Swartzlander was given 30 days to amend her complaint.