Consumer debt collection actions can be difficult to defend. Sometimes, however, the debt collector’s lawyer makes it relatively simple, by filing in the wrong court.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act — a federal statute passed in 1978 with the intent of providing significant protections to consumer debtors from debt collection efforts — specifies quite clearly where a legal action on a consumer debt must be brought. As 15 U.S.C. section 1692i(a) states,
Any debt collector who brings any legal action on a debt against any consumer shall—
(1) in the case of an action to enforce an interest in real property securing the consumer’s obligation, bring such action only in a judicial district or similar legal entity in which such real property is located; or
(2) in the case of an action not described in paragraph (1), bring such action only in the judicial district or similar legal entity—
(A) in which such consumer signed the contract sued upon; or
(B) in which such consumer resides at the commencement of the action.
(emphasis added). Therefore, if an action is filed anywhere other than where the debtor signed the contract, or where the debtor lives at the time the lawsuit is filed, then the action should be dismissed for failure to abide by the FDCPA’s venue provision — which applies to consumer collection lawsuits filed anywhere in the U.S. Moreover, the debtor itself may be liable for improper debt collection practices under section 1692k of the FDCPA, although such liability requires a showing of intentionality on the part of the debt collector, which may be difficult to provide.
In any case, the FDCPA’s very explicit and narrow venue provision is a tool which can be used by debtors and their attorneys to achieve a relatively quick and painless dismissal of a consumer debt collection action. As always, however, individuals faced with a collection lawsuit should consult with an experienced and qualified attorney to understand all of their options in order to best defend their rights under the law.
This article does not constitute legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship, and is not for re-publication without express permission of the author.