APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Richard G. Stearns, U.S. District Judge.
Scott Douglas Burke, Tory A. Weigand, Alan E. Brown, and Morrison Mahoney LLP on brief for appellant.
Sergei Lemberg and Lemberg Law, LLC on brief for appellee.
Before Kayatta, Baldock[*] and Selya, Circuit Judges. BALDOCK, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
SELYA, Circuit Judge.
This is one of the relatively rare occasions on which we have been asked, in a non-class-action setting, to visit the precincts patrolled by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § § 1692-1692p. Specifically, we are tasked with determining whether a particular collection letter satisfies section 1692g(b) of the FDCPA, which requires that a debt collector's collection activities and communications " not overshadow or be inconsistent with the disclosure of the consumer's right to dispute the debt or request the name and address of the original creditor." Id. § 1692g(b). The district court concluded that the collection letter at issue here fell short of this mark.
We hold that, for FDCPA purposes, a collection letter is to be viewed from the perspective of the hypothetical unsophisticated consumer. Applying this standard, we affirm the judgment below.
The raw facts, memorialized by the parties' pleadings, are undisputed. At some indeterminate point in time, plaintiff-appellee Robbie Pollard, who is a " consumer" within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(3), allegedly incurred a debt of approximately $611.84. The Law Office of Mandy L. Spaulding, the defendant and appellant here, subsequently was retained to collect the debt. In carrying out this assignment, the defendant was operating as a " debt collector" as defined in section 1692a(6).
On October 23, 2012, the defendant sent the plaintiff a collection letter (a copy of which appears as an appendix to this opinion). This letter was typed on the defendant's letterhead over the signature " Mandy L. Spaulding, Esq." The letter explained that the defendant had been retained to collect the monies allegedly owed and was " not inclined to use further resources attempting to collect this debt before filing suit." It further explained that the defendant planned to collect the debt " through whatever legal means are available and without [the plaintiff's] cooperation." It went on to inform the plaintiff that the defendant was " obligated to [its] client to pursue the next logical course of action without delay" and described how the plaintiff could make payments.
Below the signature block, in smaller print, were several paragraphs preceded by the caption " NOTICE OF IMPORTANT RIGHTS." These paragraphs contained the statutorily mandated notice of ...