On December 17, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in favor of a debt collector in Taubenfliegel v. Miller & Milone, P.C., granting a motion for summary judgment regarding the naming of the creditor in a collection letter.
Plaintiff Elizabeth Taubenfliegel alleged violations of Section 1692g of the FDCPA for failing to name the creditor in a debt collection letter which sought to collect a debt owed to a hospital. In the letter, the debt collector identified the hospital’s name in the subject line, stated that it represented the hospital in connection to her outstanding bill, and identified the patient name, hospital account number, and the date of service.
Taubenfliegel took issue with the letter for not using the word “creditor” when identifying the hospital. The sole basis for her claim was that the letter “[m]erely nam[es] the creditor without specifically identifying the entity as the current creditor to whom the debt is owed.”
The Court disagreed, ruling that no reasonable jury could rule in favor of Taubenfliegel because the letter identified that the debt collector represented the hospital in connection with her outstanding bill. “These details, read together with the rest of the letter, compel the conclusion that defendant was collecting a debt on behalf of the creditor hospital.” The Court went on to state that the FDCPA does not require “magic words” for debt collectors to avoid liability and even the least sophisticated consumer would have been aware that the name of the creditor appeared in the letter.
The claims in this case appear to have less merit than most filed under the FDCPA, but it indicates that consumer protection attorneys are trying new and creative ways to try to hold debt collectors liable for their collection letters.
Troutman Sanders will monitor this decision for appeal.