In McLaughlin v. Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg, LLP, — F.3d —-, 2014 WL 2883891 (3rd Cir. 2014), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that an FDCPA Plaintiff need not demand debt validation as a pre-requisite to filing an FDCPA action.
PHS argues that it nonetheless cannot incur “liability as a matter of law where it has complied with the debt validation procedure set forth in the FDCPA,” FN10 Appellee Br. 26–27 (emphasis omitted), and McLaughlin did not seek to validate the debt described in the Letter.FN11 This argument lacks any statutory support. [FN11. Several district courts share this view. See, e.g., Bleich v. Revenue Maximization Grp., Inc., 233 F.Supp.2d 496, 500 (E.D.N.Y.2002) (holding that a plaintiff could not sue in response to a misstated debt in a letter conforming to the FDCPA’s validation requirements and reasoning “[h]ad Plaintiff exercised her rights under the FDCPA to obtain debt verification, it is entirely likely that litigation would have been avoided”); Lindbergh v. Transworld Sys., Inc., 846 F.Supp. 175, 179 (D.Conn.1994) (“[T]he court can only wonder why the plaintiff has chosen to impose the significant burden of litigation on both the defendant and this court, instead of simply following the cost-effective procedures provided by the FDCPA specifically designed to facilitate the exchange of information between debt collectors and debtors.”); see also Lorandeau v. Capital Collection Serv., No. 10–3807, 2011 WL 4018248, at *11–12 (E.D.Pa. Sept. 8, 2011) (holding that a plaintiff cannot bring a claim based upon a defendant’s attempt to collect an invalid debt unless the plaintiff disputed the debt); Palmer v. I.C. Sys., Inc., No. 04–3237, 2005 WL 3001877, at *5 (N.D.Cal. Nov. 8, 2005) (recognizing that although the FDCPA does not require a consumer to dispute a debt, a consumer who fails to do so cannot assert a claim based upon the debt collector’s attempt to collect an invalid debt). As explained in the text, there is no statutory support for this view.]. ¶ The statute’s text provides no indication that Congress intended to require debtors to dispute their debts under § 1692g before filing suit under § 1692e, and in fact, the statutory language suggests the opposite. The language of § 1692g indicates that disputing a debt is optional. The statute lists consequences “ [i]f the consumer” disputes a debt, 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b) FN12 (emphasis added), and it makes clear that failure to dispute a debt cannot be construed as an admission of liability. 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(c). Thus, the statute protects a prospective litigant from being penalized in a lawsuit if he or she chooses not to seek validation. The absence of a pre-suit validation request requirement does not appear accidental given the protection Congress bestowed on those who opt not to seek validation of the debt. ¶ Moreover, permitting debtors to proceed under § 1692e without first disputing their debts under § 1692g is consistent with this Court’s FDCPA jurisprudence, which has never imposed a § 1692g prerequisite and which has consistently emphasized the purpose of the FDCPA as a remedial statute, applying a “least sophisticated debtor” standard to “lender-debtor communications.” Brown, 464 F.3d at 453–54; see also Wilson v. Quadramed Corp., 225 F.3d 350, 354 (3d Cir.2000) (“[T]he debt validation provisions of section 1692g were included … to guarantee that consumers … receive[d] adequate notice of their rights under the law.”). Imposing a § 1692g dispute prerequisite in the absence of any statutory language requiring it would undermine the FDCPA’s protection of unsophisticated debtors, who would have no reason to suspect that they would be prevented from filing suit concerning deceptive communications as a consequence of failing to invoke the optional statutory validation procedure. ¶ Furthermore, imposing a requirement that the debtor challenge the validity of the debt described in a communication before filing suit would have the effect of immunizing false statements that a consumer failed to promptly dispute.FN13 Put differently, if a debt collector’s communication was false, the debt collector would avoid liability for the false communication simply because a request to validate its contents was not made. This would be inconsistent with the FDCPA’s goal of ensuring debt collectors act responsibly. Finally, declining to require debtors to lodge disputes under § 1692g before filing suit would not frustrate the FDCPA’s validation procedure. See Lindbergh v. Transworld Sys., Inc., 846 F.Supp. 175, 179 (D.Conn.1994) (contrasting “the significant burden of litigation” with “the cost-effective [validation] procedures provided by the FDCPA”). Debtors will still have an incentive to follow the validation procedure even if pursuit of the validation process is not required to preserve the ability to file suit as it can enable debtors to cheaply and quickly resolve disputes with debt collectors. Moreover, because the validation process facilitates the exchange of information, it may ultimately help debtors bolster their FDCPA claims. See Hubbard v. Nat’l Bond & Collection Assocs ., Inc., 126 B.R. 422, 428 (D.Del.), aff’d, 947 F.2d 935 (3d Cir.1991) (table) (“[T]his exchange of information [under § 1692g’s validation procedure] provides debt collectors with ‘actual knowledge’ of the facts relevant to their collection efforts. This is significant because only a knowing violation of § 1692e is actionable.”). ¶ For these reasons, a consumer is not required to seek validation of a debt he or she believes is inaccurately described in a debt communication as a prerequisite to filing suit under § 1692e. Thus, the District Court’s imposition of such a requirement was incorrect and its dismissal of McLaughlin’s § 1692e(2) and (10) claims on this basis was improper.