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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

11th Circuit interprets FDCPA statute of limitations

Courts Appellate Eleventh Circuit Debt Collection Mortgages FDCPA State Issues Mortgage Servicing Time-Barred Debt

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On March 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit partially affirmed a district court’s dismissal of federal and state law claims against a loan servicer, concluding that while a 1099-A form sent to the plaintiff was not an attempt to collect a debt under the FDCPA, the district court erred in determining that the claim was time-barred. The plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of the FDCPA, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and the Florida Mortgage Brokerage and Lending Laws (MBBL). After the district court dismissed her initial and amended complaints, the plaintiff appealed, arguing, among other things, that the district court erred when it (i) determined that the defendant’s mailing of IRS form 1099-A was not an attempt to collect a debt under the FDCPA; (ii) dismissed her FDCPA claim as time-barred because the statute of limitations had expired; (iii) found that the defendant was not involved in the original loan transaction and therefore could not be liable for damages under the MBLL; and (iv) declined “to exercise supplemental jurisdiction” over the other state law claims after dismissing the FDCPA claims with prejudice.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit agreed that the form 1099-A “was not a communication in connection with debt collection” because it did “not demand payment, state that it was an attempt to collect a debt, or state to whom or how to make a payment of the debt.” The appellate court also agreed that the district court properly dismissed the plaintiff’s MBLL claim because she failed to plead that the defendant made her mortgage loan as required under the MBLL. The district court’s decision to dismiss the remainder of the state-law claims was also affirmed. However, the 11th Circuit disagreed with whether the plaintiff’s FDCPA claim was time-barred, concluding that while the one-year statute of limitations under the FDCPA begins to run on the date the communication is mailed, the appellate court has “never held that, when the date of mailing is in dispute and a plaintiff alleges receipt of a letter on a certain date, a court could presume a mailing date based on the date of receipt and the parties’ addresses.” (Emphasis in the original.) According to the 11th Circuit, “the district court erred in dismissing [the plaintiff’s] FDCPA claims as untimely when her complaint did not allege a date of mailing of the February mortgage statement, and it was not apparent from the face of her complaint whether her claim was time-barred.”

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