On February 2, Judge Robert T. Dawson, in the Western District of Arkansas, granted a defendant debt collector’s motion for summary judgment. The court determined Monterey Financial Service LLC’s responses to plaintiff Kyle Steven Johnston’s debt validation request did not constitute harassment and satisfied Monterey’s obligations under the FDCPA.
At issue in the case was a time share membership. Per the membership’s agreement, Johnston was required to make monthly payments, including special assessments. Notably, Johnston conceded that he stopped making payments pursuant to this agreement. Johnston eventually became aware that his credit was being negatively affected, and he sent a letter to Monterey asking it to verify the original signed contract. Johnston then sent a second letter disputing the debt.
In response, Monterey marked the account as disputed. After reaching out to the creditor for a copy of the agreement, Monterey sent three response letters stating that the debt remained due. Each response letter included a copy of the agreement.
Unsatisfied with this response, Johnston filed a lawsuit claiming that Monterey’s actions violated the FDCPA. Specifically, Johnston claimed that Monterey harassed him by sending “inadequate” responses, and Monterey failed to properly validate the debt.
Regarding the harassment claim, the court stated that sending “near identical” letters in response to a request for information does not constitute harassment under the FDCPA.
In response to Johnston’s claim of inadequate verification and validation, the court stressed the purpose of the FDCPA and that verification may be “nothing more than the collector confirming in writing the amount being demanded and name and address of the creditor.” The court ruled that Monterey’s responses “were sufficient to put Plaintiff on notice of the nature, status and balance of the debt[.]” Further, any alleged errors related to interest rates, dates, or balances did not violate the FDCPA. The court granted judgment for Monterey and dismissed the case.
The court’s succinct dismissal should give pause to any party seeking to lure a debt collector into a FDCPA violation by sending validation requests and not liking the response.