ATLANTA — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has vacated a lower court's decision to deny class-action status in a lawsuit involving debt collection.
Ronnie Dickens had appealed a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to not grant class-action certification in his suit against GC Services Limited Partnership.
“We are happy with the 11th Circuit’s ruling and look forward to proceeding with the case in the district court,” James Davidson, Dickens' attorney, told the Florida Record.
Dickens had filed the suit after receiving a debt collection letter from the company that indicated that GC Services was looking to collect a debt he allegedly incurred from Synchrony Bank. In the letter, the company allegedly said that if he disputed the claim, “we will obtain verification of the debt from our client and send it to you,” according to the appeals court ruling.
However, Dickens, who contested the debt, sued the company and claimed the letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In his claim, he argued that the letter failed to clarify that he needed to dispute the debt in writing before the collector would seek verification from its client, Synchrony Bank. He also alleged that the letter was false, deceptive or misleading.
However, GC Services indicated in a declaration from Mark Schordock, its executive vice president of operations, that its policy was to get written verification of the debt even if the company was informed in a non-written manner that the consumer disputed the debt.
Dickens attempted to get class certification for the case because GC Services allegedly sent over 9,000 similar letters to other individuals in Florida.
However, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida denied a class certification of his complaint.
He argued that the the court abused its discretion by deciding he was not “an adequate class representative and that a class-action was not the superior method of adjudicating the putative class’s claims.”
The appellate court sided with the plaintiff and vacated the district court’s denial of class certification. The appeals court then sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.
"We therefore vacate the district court’s denial of class certification and remand this case to the district court for a new class certification determination," the appeals court said in the decision.