Federal Court Holds that Service of Complaint on Consumer Represented by Counsel Permitted


Under FDCPA Exception for Direct Communication With Consumer With Express Permission of Court

by Ronald S. Canter, Esquire

The Law Offices of Ronald S. Canter, LLC

Lori Lynn Hague received an initial collection notice from a New Jersey based Law Firm attempting to collect on a credit card debt. After Ms. Hague received the letter, her counsel sent a notice of representation to the Law Firm.

The Law Firm then filed a debt collection Complaint on behalf of a credit card issuer and provided the Court with Plaintiff’s home address to serve the Summons and Complaint in accordance with a New Jersey court rule permitting the Clerk to mail the Summons and Complaint to the Defendant. After Ms. Hague was served, she filed suit, claiming that the Law Firm violated the FDCPA’s prohibition on communicating with a consumer after the collector knows the consumer is represented by counsel.

The Law Firm moved to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that the FDCPA provides a specific exception in 15 U.S.C. §1692c(b)(2) allowing a communication directly with a consumer represented by counsel where “there is express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction.”

The Court dismissed the consumer’s suit, holding that the New Jersey Rules of Court furnish express permission to permit a Complaint to be mailed directly to the consumer. The Court explained that “the FDCPA expressly contains an exception for Court-permitted communication, and numerous courts have relied on this exception in finding that a communication to a represented debtor did not violate the FDCPA when it was permitted by court rules.”

(Case No. 18-11293, United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, decided March 18, 2020.)

Ronald S. Canter, Esquire, a three term member of NCBA’s Board of Directors represented the Defendant Law Firm in this case.