9th Circuit affirms summary judgment finding in favor of debt collector in lawsuit over retail card debt collection
On August 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision of a district court to throw out a pair of consolidated punitive class action lawsuits brought against a nationwide debt collector company that alleged the company unlawfully attempted to collect debts incurred on retail-branded credit cards. A three-judge panel held that the debt collector did not “intentionally” violate provisions of the FDCPA when it circulated collection letters that did not disclose the time-barred natures of the debts under Oregon law and rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the district court had erred in granted summary judgment in favor of the company. The 9th Circuit noted that “mistakes about the time-barred status of a debt can be bona fide errors” and that the debt collector company presented evidence indicating that its failure to disclose that certain Oregon debts were time-barred were not intentional. Moreover, the 9th Circuit rejected plaintiff’s claim that a four-year statute of limitations applied to store-branded credit card accounts at the time the collection letters were sent, in part because the debt collector had sound reason to take the position that a six-year statute of limitations applied for an “account stated” under Oregon law. Ultimately, the applicable statute of limitations in this scenario remains “unsettled” under Oregon law. This, along with the fact that the 9th Circuit agreed that the company’s alleged violations were unintentional, resulted in the court’s decision to affirm the summary judgment finding in favor of the debt collector.