In Maignan v. Seterus, Inc., No. 14-CV-22488 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 11, 2015), the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida found that an allegedly deceptive communication to a plaintiff’s attorney, as opposed to the plaintiff himself, is not actionable under either the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) or its state counterpart, the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA). Following a foreclosure action, Seterus, Inc., mailed a payoff statement to counsel for Ronald Maignan, which demanded a total amount and stated an interest rate higher than those contained in the final judgment in the foreclosure action. Maignan sued, contending that the payoff statement falsely represented the character, amount, or legal status of the loan, and that the defendant had unlawfully attempted to collect an amount not expressly authorized by the parties’ agreement or permitted by law.
Seterus moved to dismiss, arguing that the payoff statement was not actionable under either the FDCPA or the FCCPA because it was sent to Maignan’s counsel, rather than to Maignan himself. The district court agreed, and dismissed Maignan’s claims with prejudice. While courts ordinarily assess whether a communication runs afoul of the FDCPA from the standpoint of the “least sophisticated consumer,” the district court agreed that it makes little sense to apply this standard to communications sent to a consumer’s attorney, rather than to the consumer himself. Likewise, because great weight must be given to federal courts’ interpretation of the FDCPA when interpreting similar provisions of the FCCPA, the district court also found that the plaintiff’s FCCPA claim failed for the same reason.