In Ingersoll v. Brandsness, the suit arose out of an effort by a collection agency and its counsel to obtain a judgment on unpaid medical bills. After the filing of the complaint, and the consumer’s filing an answer, the matter was referred to arbitration. Then, counsel for the collection agency moved for entry of default, which was denied in light of the consumer’s answer.
Thereafter, counsel for the collection agency moved for summary judgment, but erroneously served the consumer at the wrong address. The law firm subsequently re-served the motion at the correct address, and the consumer did not contest service. The law firm also filed an erroneous certificate of service stating that the motion had been served electronically when, in fact, that method was not used. Ultimately, the arbitrator awarded summary judgment in favor of the collection agency, and the consumer sought review in state court.
While the arbitration appeal was pending in state court, the consumer also filed a parallel action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against both the collection agency and its counsel. In the federal suit, the consumer alleged, among other things, that the filing of a motion for default against the consumer after he had filed an answer violated multiple sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
In response, the defendants in the federal action filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which the district court granted. The court characterized the defendants’ erroneous motion for default in the state court action as “innocuous” and noted that another similar case — in which a defendant erroneously sought a writ of garnishment— involved more egregious mistakes, yet no violation of the FDCPA was found. “The erroneous motion for default amounted to a minor procedural misstep that, like the improper writ of garnishment, was quickly resolved by the state court,” the court wrote. “Indeed, the conduct in the present case is even more innocuous than the acts taken by the defendants in Anglin because, unlike the writ of garnishment in that case, the erroneous motion for default was denied at the outset by the court and did not require remedial measures.”
The court also dismissed the consumer’s claim that the amount of the debt was misstated or misrepresented in the underlying lawsuit, based on the FDCPA’s one-year statute of limitations, which began to run upon the filing of the complaint in the collection action.
A copy of the decision can be found here.