Minor procedural errors can be frustrating for debt collectors because they can lead to litigation, even where the consumer has not suffered any real harm. In a bit of good news, however, a recent case has handed a shield to debt collectors when it comes to procedural errors in litigation.
In Ingersoll v. Brandsness et al (21-cv-01060; D. Or. 2023), a consumer filed suit against a collection agency for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The consumer included a claim against the agency for filing a motion for default in a prior collection suit against the consumer.
The only problem: The consumer had filed an answer to the suit, so there was no basis for a default. The motion was filed in error by the law firm and quickly dismissed by the Court.
The consumer argued that this erroneous motion amounted to an improper attempt to collect a debt. However, the court dismissed the claim finding that the error was only a minor procedural misstep and did not amount to an FDCPA violation. The court focused on the harm (or lack thereof) to the consumer and pointed out that there was nothing to remedy as the issue was quickly resolved by the state court.
Read the opinion here.
This is, undoubtedly, a win for debt collectors. This decision doesn’t mean your organization should throw caution to the wind, or ease up procedural checks and balances. However, decisions like this are great to keep on hand if your organization or your law firm partners find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit based only on a cured, no harm, procedural misstep.