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Higgins v. Quality Recovery Services, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

April 26, 2018

TABETHA-JENNIE HIGGINS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
QUALITY RECOVERY SERVICES, INC., and John Does 1-25, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUTFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand's Non-Final Report and Recommendation [17] (“Non-Final R&R”). The Non-Final R&R recommends that the Court deny Defendant Quality Recovery Services, Inc.'s (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss [6].

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts[1]

         On January 5, 2017, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff Tabetha-Jennie Higgins (“Plaintiff”) to collect an alleged debt owed to Windrush Apartments. ([1] (Complaint) at ¶ 31, [1.1] (the “Collection Letter”)). Windrush had contracted Defendant to collect this amount allegedly owed. ([1] at ¶ 30). The Collection Letter was the first communication between Defendant and Plaintiff regarding the amount owed to Windrush Apartments. ([1] at ¶ 32). The Collection Letter stated that Plaintiff owed $3, 473.36 to Windrush. ([1.1]). The Collection Letter stated, in relevant part:

Please be advised that your account has been assigned to Quality Recovery Services, Inc. for collection. Unless you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume the debt is valid.

([1] at ¶ 37; [1.1]).

         Plaintiff received and read the Collection Letter sometime after January 5, 2017. ([1] at ¶ 35). Plaintiff believed that the only legally effective way to dispute the debt was to do so in writing. ([1] at ¶ 38).

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this Class Action Complaint on July 10, 2017, asserting that Defendant had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq. ([1]). Plaintiff asserts two Counts for relief. In Count I, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant violated § 1692g of the FDCPA by failing accurately to convey the notice that Defendant was required to provide to Plaintiff under § 1692g(a). ([1] at ¶ 47). In Count II, which is mislabeled in the Complaint as a second “Count I, ” Plaintiff asserts that Defendant violated § 1692e of the FDCPA by making a false representation in connection with the collection of a debt, namely, that the only effective way Plaintiff could dispute the debt was to do so in writing. ([1] at ¶¶ 51-52). Plaintiff brings this action individually and putatively on behalf of a class consisting of:

a) All consumers who have an address in the state of Georgia b) who were sent a collection letter from the Defendant c) attempting to collect a consumer debt, d) that states ‘Unless you notify this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid.' e) which letter was sent on or after a date one year prior to the filing of this action and on or before a date 21 days after the filing of this action.

([1] at ¶ 14).

         Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss [6] on September 26, 2017. Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [8] on October 10, 2017.

         On February 13, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued his Non-Final R&R. The Magistrate Judge first addressed whether § 1692g(a)(3) contains a writing requirement. The Magistrate Judge concluded that it did not. The Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff may state a claim for violations of § 1692g(a)(3) and § 1692e(10) on the basis of her allegations that Defendant's Collection Letter required her to dispute her debt “in writing, ” and that she was misled into believing that only a written dispute would be valid. ([17] at 16).

         The Magistrate Judge next considered whether Plaintiff failed to plead that the Collection Letter was confusing to the “least sophisticated consumer.” ([17] at 18). The Magistrate judge concluded that Plaintiff specifically pleaded that because of the Collection Letter, she, “as would any least sophisticated consumer, ” believed that she could only dispute her debt in writing ([1] at ¶ 38) and this was sufficient to sustain a cause of action. ([17] at 19).

         Finally, the Magistrate Judge rejected Defendant's argument that Plaintiff's interpretation of § 1692g of the FDCPA ...


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