Judge denies Florida man's request for class action against debt collector for unpaid credit card bill

By Takesha Thomas | Mar 18, 2019

Dyer Federal Building, Miami   Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain]

MIAMI – A federal judge has denied a request for class action certification in a lawsuit filed by a Florida man claiming a collections company violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. 

In his suit, Leonardo Gomes claimed that Portfolio Recovery Associates violated Florida and federal statutes when the collections company sent him a letter in an effort to recover funds he owed on a credit card. In May 2018,  Gomes filed a class action complaint in district court alleging three counts against Portfolio under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Florida Consumer Collections Protection Act (FCCPA). 

He alleged Portfolio violated the FDCPA by "making false, deceptive, or misleading representations in connection with the collection of a debt; violated a section of the FDCPA by using unfair or unconscionable means to collect, or attempt to collect, a debt; and violated the FCCPA, Florida Statute which forbids a debt collector from asserting the existence of a legal right when it knows the right does not exist."

However, in a Feb. 28 court filing, U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga denied Gomes' motion for class certification and appointment of a class representative and class counsel in the matter. 

The judge said Gomes' case would present too many "individualized causation and damages questions," which would bog down the case and make a class action no better than a variety of individual lawsuits from others with similar claims.

Gomes had requested the class action include anyone located in Florida in the past one-two years who had received a letter from Portfolio had "based on the template regarding a Capital One credit card debt where the charge off date preceded the date of the letter by more than five years." 

According to court documents, Gomes failed to pay on a Capital One Bank personal credit card resulting in a debt. His last payment was made in 2010. In May 2017, Portfolio sent a letter to Gomes regarding a balance due of $1,557 to Capital One. The statute of limitations for initiating an action on a debt in the state of Florida is five years, court papers say. 

Gomes argued that in the collection letter Portfolio used language that "gave or could give the least sophisticated consumer the misleading impression the debt was legally enforceable." Believing that the state's statute of limitation was seven years, Gomes contends that he believed that "judicial enforcement action might be taken on the debt."

According to court records, the collection letter offered Gomes the option for repaying the "full balance of $1,557.02 in a single payment, six monthly payments, or 12 monthly payments, in exchange for which the debt would be considered 'paid in full.'”

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