This is a case that I’m particularly proud of. The Plaintiff (my client) is a Maryland consumer who lives and works in Montgomery County, where I also live and work. Thank you to Peter Holland and Manny Turnbull of The Holland Law Firm who worked with me on this case.
Earlier this month, Judge Chuang (a Judge who sits on Maryland’s Federal Court) denied, all across the board, Defendant JTM’s motion for summary judgment. If you aren’t familiar with these litigation terms – this means the Plaintiff can bring ALL of her pleaded claims to a jury. But this was not so easy and straight-forward; JTM has filed similar motions for summary judgment in other jurisdictions, and they have worked. But not this time!
JTM is a debt buyer who purchased tons of allegedly defaulted debt from creditors with the intent to collect those debts from consumers.
A few years ago, JTM purchased two debts that the Plaintiff allegedly owed, but for some reason, JTM did not contact her directly. Instead, JTM hired two other debt collectors (who were not licensed to collect debts in Maryland) to collect those debts on JTM’s behalf. As alleged in the Complaint, the debt collection tactics included:
- Repeatedly calling and leaving messages at the school where the Plaintiff worked, often attempting to get through to her boss.
- Multiple phone calls placed to the Plaintiff’s cell phone and work phone daily. When they got through to her, they threatened that she may be arrested because of the debt, and told her that the police would arrest her at the school where she worked.
- They contacted the Plaintiff’s daughter and made some alarming claims that caused a lot of worry.
The Plaintiff alleged in the Complaint that the above debt collection tactics violate Maryland and federal law.
JTM did not communicate directly with the Plaintiff; they hired unlicensed debt collectors to do it. JTM filed its motion for summary judgment on 2 theories: 1) that they are not debt collectors so they cannot be held liable under the FDCPA, and 2) that they cannot be held vicariously liable for the acts of the collection agencies that it hired. JTM lost on both theories because 1) debt buyers like JTM are debt collectors under the FDCPA despite the Supreme Court’s Henson decision (as another one of my cases made clear two years ago) and 2) they maintained enough control over the debt collectors that they hired for a reasonable jury to determine that those debt collectors were JTM’s agents.