In Davis v. Hollins Law, the Ninth Circuit recently reversed a lower court’s judgment in favor of the plaintiff on a claim under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, finding that the defendant debt collector’s communication was sufficient in context to disclose to the least sophisticated debtor that it was from a debt collector.
As background, Hollins Law attempted to collect a debt from Davis after Davis failed to pay the balance on his American Express credit card. The parties communicated multiple times via telephone and email regarding settlement of the debt. In one particular instance, Hollins Law left Davis a voicemail message, stating: “Hello, this is a call for [Davis] from Gregory at Hollins Law. Please call sir, it is important, my number is 866-513-5033. Thank you.”
Davis subsequently filed suit, arguing that Hollins Law violated the FDCPA by leaving the above-described voicemail message because the message failed to disclose that the communication was from a debt collector. After a bench trial, the lower ruled in favor of Davis, finding that the message technically violated the FDCPA, although the court acknowledged that the violation was “clearly de minimis.”
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit recognized the fact that Davis and Hollins Law had multiple communications prior to the voicemail message at dispute. The Court concluded that “given the extent of the prior communications, … the voicemail message’s statement that the call was from ‘Gregory at Hollins Law’ was sufficient to disclose to a debtor with a basic level of understanding that the communication at issue was ‘from a debt collector.’” The Court went on to hold that the FDCPA does not require a debt collector to use any specific language as long as it is sufficient to disclose that the communication is from a debt collector.