In Lampert v. Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA, plaintiff Debbie H. Lampert filed suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois against a debt collection agency, alleging that defendant Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act when it failed to cease collection activities following Lampert’s request for verification of the debt.
Lampert defaulted on a debt in 2017. On November 3, 2017, the bank placed the account with a debt collection agency. On November 22, 2017, the debt collection agency sent Lampert an initial collection letter seeking to recover the debt. Lampert alleged that on November 27, 2017, she mailed a letter to the debt collection agency to dispute the validity of the debt and to seek verification of the debt. She further claims that on December 1, 2017 at 11:04 a.m., she faxed a second letter to the agency again requesting verification of the debt. The debt collection agency did not respond to Lampert’s letter or fax. On February 2, 2018, the debt collection agency filed suit in an Illinois state court.
Subsequently, Lampert filed suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, alleging FDCPA violations as a result of the agency failing to cease collection without providing verification of the debt. The debt collection agency disputed that Lampert actually sent a request for verification. The agency had no record of receiving any verification request from her. The records from the agency’s telephone and fax service provider also showed that the agency never received any call from Lampert’s fax number on December 1, 2017 at 11:04 a.m. The agency proffered that Lampert’s fax confirmation transmission page was suspect and potentially fabricated.
The Court agreed with the collection agency and found that that the records did not show that the agency received a fax from Lampert on the alleged date and time. Still, the Court did not grant summary judgment on this basis.
Regardless of whether Lampert’s fax confirmation transmission page was authentic, the debt collection agency argued that it was entitled to summary judgment under the FDCPA’s bona fide error defense. Under the bona fide error defense, “a debt collector may not be held liable under the FDCPA if the debt collector shows by a preponderance of evidence that the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid any such error.” Kort v. Diversified Collection Servs., Inc. Based on the debt collection agency’s production of “voluminous evidence, including its internal operating procedures and an affidavit from…the managing partner of the Chicago office, supporting its claim that it has and follows strict procedures for handling communications from consumers,” the Court found that the debt collection agency established that it maintains reasonable procedures to avoid errors. Thus, the Court ruled that the debt collection agency did not violate the FDCPA because its failing to cease collection without providing verification of the debt was a bona fide error and unintentional. Consequently, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the agency.