On November 20, a judge for the Southern District of New York granted a motion to dismiss a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) class-action holding that a simple lack of a date on a model validation notice did not amount to a violation of the statute because it was not confusing to the least sophisticated consumer.
In Loeffler v. Fleming, the model validation notice at issue included an itemization table, which informed the plaintiff that: “As of April 20, 2020, you owe $9,971.23… Total amount of the debt now: $9,971.23.” The plaintiff alleged that such a letter without a date made the notice seem “illegitimate” and failed to provide a date of reference that could be used when reading “today” and “now” in the itemization table. His alleged damages were the time and money spent to determine the proper response which was money that could have been used to pay down the debt.
The court disagreed and dismissed the matter finding that one undated notice could not be considered “harassing, oppressive, or abusive.” Also, despite the lack of a date, the notice could not be considered a misrepresentation. “Here, the [l]etter stated the dollar amount of debt owed as of ‘now,’ and gave plaintiff until December 20, 2022, to dispute the debt,” Judge Briccetti wrote. “Therefore, the only reasonable interpretation of the [l]etter was that it was sent a relatively brief period prior to December 20, 2022, and the amount of plaintiff’s debt has remained unchanged since April 20, 2020.”
Finally, the judge ruled that even the least sophisticated consumer would not be confused by the letter which was plain on its face. The only argument which did not go in the defendant’s favor was its argument for a safe harbor which the judge ruled was inapplicable to the FDCPA. No matter, the case was fully dismissed in the defendant’s favor.
This case shows that plaintiffs’ law firms will go to incredible and creative lengths to find and file claims under the FDCPA. However, just because the claim is creative, meritless cases will still be dismissed from federal court if the allegations of the complaint are absurd. Such cases should just be met with a well drafted motion to dismiss. This was one of them and it paid off for the defendant.