Debtors have rights under various federal and California statutes. For example, under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), a debtor has the right to dispute that a debt is owed and/or dispute the amount owed. Further, if a debtor disputes a debt, the FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from calling or taking other actions to collect on the debt. Yet further, a debtor is allowed to simply indicate that the debt will not be paid and, again, the FDCPA prohibits further collection efforts. Debt collectors can be punished under the FDCPA if they violate these or other provisions. Even one call after receiving notice from a debtor can subject a debt collector to punishment.
This is what happened in a recent case called Lupia v. Medicredit, Inc., 8 F. 4th 1184 (US Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit 2021). In Lupia, the debt was an invoice for medical services. The debtor -- Elizabeth Lupia -- disagreed that she owed the debt. Her insurance company had sent partial payment and Lupia believed that the insurance payment was in full satisfaction of the debt. However, the hospital disagreed and sent the matter to Medicredit -- a debt collector -- for collection.
Medicredit sent Lupia a letter about the debt and then called, leaving a voicemail on April 30, 2018. Two days later, on May 2nd, Lupia responded by mailing a letter disputing the debt and demanding that Medicredit immediately cease all telephone calls to her regarding the debt.
Medicredit admitted receiving Lupia's letter on May 7th, but it did not input the letter into its computer system. On the 8th, a Medicredit representative called Lupia and left a voicemail about the debt.
Lupia sued and was victorious. Even one phone call/voice message made even one day after receipt of a letter demanding that phone calls cease will make a debt collector legally liable for violating the FDCPA. Medicredit tried to argue it was just a mistake -- what the FDCPA calls a "bona fide error." Medicredit also said "it was just one day" and just one call.
The court rejected Medicredit's attempt to downplay its violation of the FDCPA. By its own admission, Medicredit did not have an adequate procedure for updating its computer calling system when it received letters from debtors. According to Medicredit, it gave itself three days to update its systems. So it was not "just one day." Consequently, the court held that Medicredit violated the FDCPA by continuing to call her after receipt of her cease-and-desist letter -- even though it was only one call. One call is sufficient to make debt collectors legally liable under the FDCPA.
Contact an Experienced Debt Relief and Debtor’s Rights Attorney
For more information, contact the debtor's rights attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. If you think you have been subject to unfair and deceptive debt collection practices under the FDCPA or any other statute, we can help. We can also help with other debt-relief legal services like bankruptcies and debt settlement negotiations. We have the tools and experience you need. Our mission is to provide unparalleled legal services and support to financially distressed individuals. We can be reached via our contact page or by phone at (800) 316-3133.