In Imperial Merchant Services v. Hunt, 2009 WL 2424543 (2009), the California Supreme Court granted a request by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.548) to decide a question of California law: whether a debt collector recovering on a dishonored check may recover both a service charge under section 1719 and prejudgment interest under section 3287. The Court addressed the conflict as follows:
Section 1719 is silent regarding the availability of prejudgment interest in addition to the fixed service charge. The federal court opinions that have addressed this issue have unanimously held that a debt collector is limited to the remedies explicitly prescribed in section 1719, which do not include prejudgment interest. (Hunt I, supra, 478 F.Supp.2d at p. 1171; Palmer v. Stassinos (N.D.Cal.2004) 348 F.Supp.2d 1070, 1083 ( Stassinos I ); Palmer v. Stassinos (N.D.Cal.2005) 419 F.Supp.2d 1151, 1153 ( Stassinos II ); Irwin v. Mascott (N.D.Cal.2000) 112 F.Supp.2d 937, 947-948, 955; Irwin v. Mascott (9th Cir.2004) 370 F.3d 924, 927-928. Of these five opinions, however, only two, Hunt I and Stassinos I, explored in depth the issue presented here, i.e., whether a debt collector may recover both prejudgment interest under section 3287 and the service charge under section 1719. It appears that no California court has spoken on this issue.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court held that the statutory damages prescribed in section 1719 are exclusive in the sense that a debt collector who recovers a service charge pursuant to section 1719 may not also recover prejudgment interest under section 3287.