Georgia Federal Court Dismisses Claims Against Debt Collector for Calls Made to Debtor’s Mother

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia recently dismissed all claims made against debt collector Capital Link Management (“Capital Link”) for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (“GFBPA”) arising from calls made to the debtor’s mother. See Joe v. Capital Link Management, LLC, 2021 WL 4438081 (N.D. Ga. 2021). In the case, plaintiff Debbie Joe (“Joe”) claimed that Capital Link contacted her regarding a debt owed by her daughter Laura Sosa (“Sosa”). Joe told the representative who called her that Sosa now lived out of state, but Capital Link contacted her at least 15 more times requesting that she have Sosa contact them. While the callers gave their names and the name of the company, none of the calls identified Capital Link caller as a debt collector. Joe then brought this action alleging that these communications violated the FDCPA.  Capital Link moved to dismiss, and the Magistrate Judge recommended that two of the three FDCPA claims (§ 1692c(b) and § 1692d(6)) be dismissed, while recommending that the third claim proceed (§1692e(11)). Both parties appealed.

On appeal, the Court adopted in part and declined in part the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation and dismissed all of the claims.  Regarding § 1692c(b), the Court noted that this provision prohibited debt collectors from communicating with a third party, or with any person other than the consumer, about the consumer’s debt without prior consent of the consumer. The Court agreed with the Magistrate’s finding that under the statute, Sosa, and not Joe, was the consumer, and thus this action was Sosa’s to bring, not Joe’s. Regarding § 1692d(6), the Court noted that this section prohibits debt collectors from placing telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity. Joe argued that because the caller did not identify himself as a debt collector and that any information she gave would be used for debt collection purposes, there was no “meaningful disclosure.” The Court disagreed, noting that the calls identified the name of the caller and the company that they were calling from, and that this was “meaningful disclosure.” Thus, the Court agreed with the Magistrate’s recommendation to dismiss each of these claims.

Regarding § 1692e(11), which provides that “[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt,” the Magistrate allowed this claim to survive because Joe, even as a non-consumer, could maintain a claim. This section also allowed for claims of “general violations” of the FDCPA. The Court agreed with the Magistrate that Joe could, in theory, maintain a claim under this provision, but noted that § 1692e(11) only applied to “initial communications.” Since the communications in question were not alleged to be “initial communications,” and because Joe had not asserted “general violations” of the FDCPA, the Court did not adopt the Magistrate’s recommendation, instead dismissing this claim. With all FDCPA claims dismissed, the Court also dismissed her GFBPA claim, which the parties agreed “rise and fall” with her FDCPA claims.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com, Desiree McDonald at dmcdonald@riker.com, or Kevin Hakansson at khakansson@riker.com.