SEVENTH CIRCUIT RULES ON COMMUNCIATION WITH LAWYER AFTER CEASE COMMUNICATION REQUEST
The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has held that a debt collector may communicate with a debtor’s lawyer after receiving a debtor’s cease communication request. Tinsley v. Integrity Fin. Partners, Inc., No. 10-2045, 2011 WL 477486 (7th Cir. Feb. 11, 2011).
In Tinsley, the debtor’s lawyer sent the debt collector a letter stating that the debtor refused to pay and requesting that the debt collector cease all further collection activities and direct all future communications to the lawyer. The debt collector did not call the debtor after receiving the letter, but did call the lawyer to request payment. The debtor sued the debt collector, claiming a violation of Section 1692c(c) of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which provides that if a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector may not communicate with the consumer except pursuant to three limited exceptions.
The district court indicated that a debtor’s lawyer is not a “consumer” for purposes of the above prohibition and thus held that the debt collector did not violate the FDCPA. The Court of Appeals agreed. According to the Court, the FDCPA does not define the term “consumer” for purposes of the above prohibition to include the consumer’s lawyer and interpreting the word “consumer” to include the consumer’s lawyer would lead to absurd results under this prohibition and other provisions of the FDCPA. The Court indicated that a debtor who does not want to be contacted by a debt collector with demands for payment and other communications may simply tell his or her layer not to relay them. In coming to this conclusion, the Court refused to follow Startare v. Credit Bureau of North America, LLC, [See our Alert of August 27, 2010] in which the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that Section 1692c(c) of the FDCPA applies to communications with either a consumer or a consumer’s attorney.
- Margaret Stolar and Chuck Gall