Posts Tagged ‘FDCPA’

The Fourth Circuit issued published opinions in five cases today. That is a large number of opinions in argued cases for a single day. Two of the cases were argued in September. Both were split decisions. Two of the cases were argued in October. Both were unanimous as to outcome, but one featured an unusual concurring opinion joined by a panel majority. The fifth decision, from a case argued in December, was unanimous. I hope to have more to say about at least some of these opinions in the future, but here is a capsule summary for now.

Fortier v. Principal Life Ins. Co.  is a dispute over disability insurance. A split panel affirms the interpretation of an ERISA plan administrator that resulted in a denial of benefits. Judge Niemeyer wrote the opinion, which was joined in by Judge Wilkinson. Judge Floyd dissented. 

Lee-Thomas v. Prince George’s County is a dispute over sovereign immunity for a county board of education. A split panel affirms the district court’s decision that a statutory waiver of immunity, as interpreted by Maryland’s Court of Appeals, preserved claims against a county board’s of education for $100,000 or less. Judge King wrote the opinion, which was joined by Judge Davis. Judge Keenan dissented. 

Peabody Holding v. United Mine Workers presents a dispute about who decides arbitrability. A Fourth Circuit panel unanimously holds that the court rather than arbitrator must decide arbitrability, because the agreement contains no language unmistakably designating arbitrability for arbitration. Addressing arbitrability in an exercise of its independent judgment, the appellate court concludes that the dispute is arbitrable. Judge Diaz wrote the opinion, which was joined in by Judge Niemeyer and Judge Wynn. 

Zelaya v. Holder is an immigration case. The Fourth Circuit denies the petition for review with respect to an asylum claim and a withholding of removal claim, but grants the petition for review with respect to a Convention Against Torture claim. Senior Judge Hamilton wrote the opinion for the court, which was joined in by Judge Davis and Judge Floyd. Judge Floyd wrote a separate concurrence, in which Judge Davis joined. (One lesson? When Judge Floyd writes a separate concurrence, turnabout is fair play. See here for this panel’s similar voting in a different case. One question: What is going on with this panel?)

Warren v. Sessoms & Rogers is a case about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Fourth Circuit holds that the district court, based on the defendant’s characterizations of its Rule 68 offer of judgment, incorrectly dismissed the FDCPA complaint. Judge Motz wrote the opinion, in which Judge Gregory and Judge Floyd joined. (Judge Floyd did not write a separate concurrence.)


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Less than a month after oral argument, the Fourth Circuit issued an unpublished per curiam opinion reversing the dismissal of claims against the Law Office of  William M. Rudow, LLC (“Rudow Law”) under the Fair Debt  Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (“MCDCA”). The panel consisted of Judge Niemeyer, Judge Motz, and Judge Floyd.

The panel held that the district court erred in holding that the plaintiff could not sue under the FDCPA and MCDCA because she did not owe the debt that Rudow Law sought to collect. The fact that Maryland law characterizes replevin as a tort action did not bring it outside of the reach of the FDCPA. And “the district court erred in holding that non-debtors,  or those with no financial interest in the collateral at issue, may not bring suit under the FDCPA.” The per curiam opinion explains that “[t]he enforcement provision of the FDCPA imposes liability on any debt collector who fails to comply with the statute’s provisions ‘with respect to any person.’ 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a) (emphasis added). Consequently, absent a limitation in the substantive provisions of the FDCPA, any aggrieved party, not just a debtor, may bring an action under the statute.”

The per curiam opinion and quick turnaround make this seem like an easy case.  Yet the opinion also seems to offer two important holdings about the scope of the FDCPA, seemingly qualifying the opinion for published status under Local Rule 36(a).

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