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Arellano v. Clark County Collection Service, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

November 17, 2017

Patricia Arellano, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Clark County Collection Service, LLC; Borg Law Group, LLC, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted June 5, 2017 Pasadena, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada Jennifer A. Dorsey, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:15-cv-01424-JAD-NJK

          Deepak Gupta (argued), Richard J. Rubin, and Neil K. Sawhney, Gupta Wessler PLLC, Washington, D.C.; Keren E. Gesund, Gesund & Pailet LLC, Las Vegas, Nevada; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Patrick J. Reilly (argued), Holland & Hart LLP, Las Vegas, Nevada, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, Stephen Reinhardt, Circuit Judge, and Edward R. Korman, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought against a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

         The panel held that a debt collector cannot avoid liability under the FDCPA by obtaining the debtor's lawsuit through a state court writ of execution. The panel concluded that such a procedure frustrates the Act's purpose and is thus conflict-preempted. The panel remanded the case for further proceedings.

          OPINION

          THOMAS, CHIEF JUDGE

         Can a debt collector avoid liability under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by obtaining the debtor's lawsuit through a writ of execution? We conclude that such a procedure frustrates the Act's purpose and is thus preempted.

         I

         Patricia Arellano was overdue on a small amount of medical debt-$371.89 to be precise. A private collection agency, Clark County Collection Services, sent her a letter about it. Included with the letter was a summons and state justice court complaint seeking collection of the debt. The complaint itself stated that Arellano could "[d]ispute the validity of this debt" within 30 days, but that failing to do so would result in a presumption of validity. However, separately, in small print, the summons indicated that to defend the lawsuit, Arellano must file a formal written response with the court within 20 days.

         Arellano did not file a response, and the collection agency obtained a default judgment against her in justice court for $793.39. The debt had doubled in the intervening month because it ...


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