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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

11th Circuit reverses dismissal of “shotgun” FDCPA, FCRA, TCPA pleadings

Courts Appellate Eleventh Circuit FDCPA FCRA TCPA Autodialer

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On March 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit partially reversed a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against several defendants for alleged violations of the FDCPA, the FCRA, and the TCPA, holding that the plaintiff’s third amended complaint was not filled with “shotgun pleadings.” The matter revolves around several statutory and common-law claims arising from the defendants’ allegedly-unlawful debt collection attempts, which were dismissed multiple times by the district court as “shotgun pleadings.” In her third amended complaint—which alleged 10 causes of action—the plaintiff contended, among other things, that the defendants failed to respond to letters she sent to dispute the alleged debt and failed to notify credit reporting agencies (CRA) of the dispute. The plaintiff also alleged that certain defendants called her cell phone multiple times using an automatic telephone dialing system. The district court entered final judgment in favor of all the defendants, minus the CRA defendant, stating, among other things, that the plaintiff continued to “‘lump the defendants together. . .and provide generic and general factual allegations as if they applied to all defendants.’”

On appeal, the 11th Circuit concluded that the district court erred in dismissing six of the 10 counts as shotgun pleadings. “While not at all times a model of clarity, [the third amended complaint] is reasonably concise, alleges concrete actions and omissions undertaken by specific defendants, and clarifies which defendants are responsible for those alleged acts or omissions,” the appellate court wrote. However, the appellate court agreed that the district court correctly dismissed two counts for failing to state a claim related to claims concerning one of the defendant’s alleged attempts to collect delinquent tax payments owed to the IRS. According to the appellate court, since “tax obligations do not arise from business dealings or other consumer transactions they are not ‘debts’ under the FDCPA.’”

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