Troutman Sanders would like to share the attached favorable decision from the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of its client, Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRA).  The district court recently denied plaintiff’s motion for class certification in a case alleging that PRA violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by sending debt collection letters in Spanish rather than English.  The collection letter contained all FDCPA disclosure requirements, albeit in Spanish.  Plaintiff sought to certify a class of individuals who received the Spanish collection letter, regardless of whether those individuals spoke or understood Spanish. 

PRA first argued that the plaintiff’s class definition was “untethered from her FDCPA claim, which hinges on the putative class members’ Spanish literacy.”  The Court agreed with PRA’s argument, finding that the class was overbroad because it included individuals who suffered no FDCPA violation.  Contrary to Plaintiff’s assertion, the Court held that sending Spanish collection letters is not a per se violation of the FDCPA. 

Next, the Court found that the proposed class lacked commonality because “[o]nly those class members who received the Spanish-language letters without first indicating that they primarily spoke Spanish or wished to receive communications in Spanish have a valid claim.”  Thus, the validity of the FDCPA claim depends on the individual circumstances of each class member. 

The Court then concluded that the proposed class was not reasonably ascertainable.  Rather, a detailed review and analysis of the individual context of each of the class members’ accounts would be necessary to determine if the specific class member spoke Spanish or preferred to receive communications in Spanish. 

Finally, the Court analyzed the numerosity requirement of Rule 23, and found that the Plaintiff failed to make any showing regarding how many of the class members spoke Spanish or indicated that they would like to receive Spanish communications.