Powers v. Credit Management Services, Inc.
- No. 13-2831 (8th Cir. Jan. 13, 2015).
- Standard form complaints and discovery requests served on debtors by a consumer debt collector did not, on their face, violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, and therefore were insufficient to support class certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b).
- Procedural context:
- District court certified four classes of consumers asserting violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) against a consumer debt collector (CMS) based on standard-form complaints and discovery requests. The Circuit Court granted interlocutory appeal and reversed the class certification order.
- As part of its collection efforts, CMS filed standard-form collection complaints and discovery requests in state court. In seeking class certification, the plaintiffs (debtor defendants in CMS’s collection suits), asserted that CMS’s pleadings violated the FDCPA by attempting to collect amounts, including accrued interest, not expressly permitted by statute. In reversing the trial court’s order certifying a class of such collection defendants, the Circuit Court observed that the “capacity of a classwide proceeding to generate common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation” matters more than simply the presence of common questions. Although the putative class raised common questions regarding whether CMS’s boilerplate pleadings gave rise to FDCPA violations, the answers would still depend upon an individualized assessment of the underlying proceedings in each collection suit. Furthermore, the Circuit Court held, whereas the “unsophisticated consumer standard” applies to assess the potentially misleading nature of debt collection letters and other communications sent directly to the consider, it was inapplicable “where an attorney is interposed as an intermediary,” as in a collection suit.
- Wollman, Loken, and Murphy.
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