22
Dec
12

No Dice for Debt Collector Contacting Debtor’s Employer

In Evon v. Law Offices of Sidney Mickell, the Ninth Circuit found that a debt collector’s letter to a consumer at her workplace addressed “personal and confidential,” “in care of her employer,” and bearing the name and return address of the debt collection law firm was a “per se” violation of § 1692c(b). The letter was actually opened by the employer and reviewed by the employer’s legal department before it was delivered to the consumer.

The court found that the debt collection law firm “should have known of the real possibility that a letter to a debtor’s place of employment, even one marked “Personal and Confidential,” would be viewed by someone other than the debtor.  This finding was attacked in a dissenting opinion that was unfamiliar with any practice of offices opening employees’ mail.  The court replied that debtors are often lower income workers with little say over their employers’ mail handling practices, and the debt collector should have guarded against this possibility.  The court relied primarily on the plain language of § 1692c(b) that prohibits debt collectors from communicating with any person except those listed in that section, and that list does not include employers.  The court noted that the legislative history of § 1692c(b) shows that Congress’ omission of employers from the list of permissible debt collector contacts was intentional.

The court did reject another consumer claim that a threat of judgment, garnishment, and attachment of bank accounts and other assets deceptively implied that judgment was inevitable or that all of the consumer’s wages and assets could have been taken.  The court found that the use of conditional language, “legal action ‘could’ result in judgment” and the omission of the word “all” by the debt collector rendered the statement accurate and not deceptive.

If you believe you have been the victim of an illegal debt collection practice, please contact the Zarcone Law Firm at 619-800-3082 for a FREE consultation.

 

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