Eleventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Time-Barred FDCPA Complaint, Despite State Renewal Statute That Allows Plaintiffs to Refile Within Six Months of Voluntary Dismissal

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of a FDCPA claim as untimely, holding that a Georgia statute that allows a party to voluntarily dismiss a timely action and then refile it within six months could not overcome the FDCPA’s one-year limitations period.  See Edwards v. Solomon & Solomon, P.C., 2020 WL 5816754 (11th Cir. Sept. 30, 2020).  On April 26, 2019, plaintiff filed an action alleging FDCPA violations against defendant in Georgia state court.  Defendant removed the action to federal court, and plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action without prejudice on May 20, 2019.  On November 17, 2019, plaintiff refiled the complaint in Georgia state court.  Defendant again removed it to federal court and moved to dismiss the action based on the fact that the alleged violations occurred between May and July 2018, and the November 2019 complaint was outside the FDCPA’s one-year limitations period.  See 15 U.S.C. 1692k(d).  Plaintiff argued that the action was timely under Ga. Code Ann. § 9-2-61, which states that “[w]hen any case has been commenced in either a state or federal court within the applicable statute of limitations and the plaintiff discontinues or dismisses the same, it may be recommenced in a court of this state or in a federal court either within the original applicable period of limitations or within six months after the discontinuance or dismissal.”  The District Court nonetheless granted the motion to dismiss.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit affirmed.  The Court agreed that, if the Georgia renewal statute applied here, the re-filed action would be timely.  However, the Court found that Congress had set an express statute of limitations for FDCPA claims and a state statute cannot extend it.  “Congress specifically provided for a one-year limitations period for FDCPA claims. And incorporating Georgia’s renewal statute into the FDCPA would undermine the uniform application of this federal limitation.”  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the dismissal.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com, or Anthony Lombardo at alombardo@riker.com.