05 Sep Debt Collection Letter May Not Falsely Imply it is from Lawyer
Eastern District of Pennsylvania case, Rosenau vs. Unifund Corp, presents the issue whether a letter from a Legal Department that employs no lawyers is misleading. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals concluded it could be and reversed a District Court decision to the contrary.
Richard Rosenau received a collection letter from Unifund that was signed “Unifund Legal Department”. Rosenau learned Unifund had no attorneys in its “Legal Department” and filed a class action for violation of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Unifund’s Legal Department consisted of a supervising Vice President and six employees, none of whom were lawyers. The District Court certified the class but dismissed the case on the pleadings because the letter was not deceptive. Rosenau appealed the case on two issues, under 1692e(3) and 1692e(10). I discuss the 1692e(10) aspect of this case in A Legal Department Without Lawyers.
In How Does the 3rd Circuit Determine FDCPA Violations, I set forth the least sophisticated debtor test the Court uses to review alleged debt collection violations.
In Rosenau, the 3rd Circuit determined that FDCPA section 1692e(3) forbids the false representation or implication that any communication is from an attorney. The Court stated “It is possible that the phrase :Legal Department” could imply to the lease sophisticated debtor that a lawyer was involved in drafting or sending the letter.”
Andy Miofsky, Esq.
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