Federal judge rules against Verizon claim for sanctions

By Richard Jones | May 15, 2017

ORLANDO — A federal judge has denied a request by Verizon Communications and Verizon Florida to issue sanctions against a Florida woman who claimed the company violated debt collection and credit reporting laws.

Judge Carlos Mendoza of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that plaintiff Helen Vierbickas’s claims were not necessarily frivolous nor did they meet the threshold established by federal rules of procedure regarding frivolous claims.

In August 2015, Vierbickas filed suit against Verizon alleging the company’s efforts to collect a prior debt were in violation of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Florida Consumer Claims Act (FCCA).

Verizon filed a motion for summary judgment on each of Vierbickas's claims. On April 10, Mendoza granted the summary judgment in Verizon’s favor and agreed to hear motions related to sanctions against the plaintiff.  

In its motion for monetary damages, Verizon argued that Vierbickas not only lacked a legal basis to file suit but that she had a duty to know that both her FCRA and FCCPA claims were barred by statutes of limitations.

Vierbickas countered in her answer that each subsequent call and each new report of information to the credit reporting agencies renewed the statute of limitations.

In his ruling, Mendoza cites Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Procedure that states a plaintiff attorneys must certify that to the best of his or her “knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances” that the claim is reasonable, not improper and supported by factual evidence.

Mendoza also stated that while Rule 11 primarily applies to plaintiff attorneys, the court must consider what a pro se litigant would consider proper and reasonable. Mendoza ruled that when taking into account the fact that plaintiff pro se status, Vierbickas’ actions were reasonable.

As to Verizon’s argument that the plaintiff should have known that her claims were time-barred, Mendoza wrote that while he ruled against Vierbickas, her argument did not lack merit, logic or consideration.  

Mendoza ultimately struck down all of Verizon’s claims for sanctions and closed the case.

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