FDCPA Class Action Complaint Warranted Class Action Treatment because Plaintiff Satisfied Requirements for Rule 23(b)(3) Class Illinois Federal Court Holds
Plaintiff filed a class action against Revenue Production Management, Inc., a debt collection agency, alleging violations of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA); the class action complaint asserted “that Defendant had a policy and practice of violating Section 1692e of the FDCPA by: (1) sending [debt collection letters] after the expiration of the 30-day validation period outlined in the initial communication; (2) informing the consumer that the debt must be disputed in writing after expiration of the 30-day validation period outlined in the initial communication; and (3) informing the consumer that a dispute must be made within 30 days of the initial communication, after the expiration of the 30-day validation period outlined in the initial communication.” Quiroz v. Revenue Production Management, Inc., 252 F.R.D. 438, 440 (N.D. Ill. 2008). Plaintiff’s lawyers filed a motion with the district court to certify the litigation as a class action. Id. The district court concluded that class action treatment was warranted and granted plaintiff’s motion.
Plaintiff incurred debts in connection with medical treatment he received, but “[he] did not pay the debt because he believed it was covered by his employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.” Quiroz, at 440. After plaintiff defaulted on the obligation, it was assigned to defendant who sent plaintiff an initial debt collection letter on April 17, 2007. Id. It was not until June 6, 2007, however, that defendant sent a letter to plaintiff advising him that “[i]f you dispute the validity of this debt then you must notify us in writing within 30 (thirty) days of our initial notice to you.” Id. Plaintiff’s class action certification motion asserted that a Rule 23(b)(3) class action should be certified, id., at 440-41.
Preliminarily, the district court observed that defendant’s opposition to class action treatment based on the merits of plaintiff’s claim was misplaced because “Whether Plaintiff will ultimately prevail on his claim that [the debt collection letter] violates Section 1692e of the FDCPA is not an issue that can be decided in the context of Plaintiff’s class certification motion.” Quiroz, at 441. As the federal court observed at page 441, “the Court must evaluate the class certification motion without regard to the merits of Plaintiff’s claims.” (Citations omitted.) Turning to Rule 23’s requirements for class action treatment, the district court readily determined that the numerosity requirement had been satisfied as the putative class consisted of “several hundred members.” Id., at 441-42. The federal court also had no difficulty concluding that the commonality requirement had been met because the foundation of plaintiff’s FDCPA class action claim was premised on a “common nucleus of operative fact” because it centered on “a standard form debt collection letter.” Id., at 442.
The federal court similarly concluded that the typicality requirement had been met because the gravamen of the class action “arises from the same event or practice or course of conduct that gives rise to the claims of other class members and his or her claims are based on the same legal theory.” Quiroz, at 442 (citation omitted). Defense attorneys argued that plaintiff’s claims were not typical because plaintiff “admits that he was not misled or confused” by the debt collection letter, but the district court rejected this theory because “the test for determining a violation of the FDCPA is not whether the individual who received the letter was misled, but whether an unsophisticated consumer would be misled.” Id. (citation omitted). The Court explained that because this is an objective standard, “a subjective inquiry into Plaintiff’s reaction to the letter is irrelevant.” Id. And for reasons we do not detail here, the federal court also rejected defendant’s objection to plaintiff’s adequacy as a class representative. Because plaintiff’s interests were not antagonistic to the interests of the putative class, because he has a sufficient interest in the outcome of the litigation, and because he is represented by competent counsel, the class action certification requirements of Rule 23(a)(4) were met. Id., at 442-43. Finally, the district court turned to the predominance and superiority class action requirements of Rule 23(b)(3). The Court concluded that common issues predominate, id., at 443-44, and that a class action was a superior means for resolving the claims, id., at 444-45. Accordingly, the district court granted the motion to certify the litigation as a class action, id., at 445.
NOTE: Plaintiff defined the proposed class as “(i) all persons with addresses within the state of Illinois (ii) who were sent a letter from Revenue Production Management, Inc. in the form of Exhibit A (attached to the Class Action Complaint) (iii) to recover a debt to the West Suburban Medical Center (iv) incurred for medical services and/or treatment (v) which were not returned undeliverable by the United States Postal Service (vi) during the period of time one-year prior to the filing of this Complaint through the date of the class certification.” Quiroz, at 440.
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