In Lyons v. Michael & Associates, 2013 WL 4680179 (S.D.Cal. 2013), Judge Burns refused to apply the ‘discovery rule’ to toll the FDCPA statute of limitations with regard to claims arising from an underlying debt collection lawsuit.
A FDCPA claim must be brought “within one year from the date on which the violation occurs.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d). The parties agree Lyons filed this suit within a year of being served with process, but more than a year after the suit was filed. The bone of contention is which is the relevant date. ¶ Several years ago, it would have been assumed that this would be governed by Naas v. Stolman, 130 F.3d 892 (9th Cir.1997), which held that the one-year statute of limitations for FDCPA claims began to run on the date an offending lawsuit was filed. See Ruth v. Unifund CCR Partners, 604 F.3d 908, 914 (6th Cir.2010) (citing Naas as holding that one year clock begins to run on filing of the complaint). But in 2009, the Ninth Circuit, without citing Naas, held that the relevant date in FDCPA actions is the date the plaintiff discovered or could have discovered her cause of action. See Mangum v. Action Collection Serv., Inc., 575 F.3d 935, 940 (9th Cir.2009). Lyons argues this is the date she was served with process. ¶ Since then, courts have struggled to reconcile these two holdings. Cappos v. Suppa, Trucchi & Henin, LLP, 2012 WL 6057995, at *3 (S.D.Cal., Dec.6, 2012) (Lorenz, J.) held that Magnum pointed out the general rule, but Naas applied specifically where the offending action was the filing of a lawsuit. See id. at *3 (“The limitations period began … when [the defendant] commenced the state-court action.”) Defendants claim that this Court is bound by Cappos, but that is wrong. U.S. District Judges are not bound by the holdings of other District Judges, or even by their own holdings in other cases. See F.C. Bloxom Co. v. Fireman’s FundIns. Co., 2012 WL 1631967 at*2 (W.D.Wash., May 9, 2012) (citing authority). Nevertheless, Cappos is persuasive precedent. ¶ Another approach is represented by Huy Thanh Vo. v. Nelson & Kennard, –––F.Supp.2d ––––, 2013 WL 1091207, slip op. at *3–4 (E.D.Cal., Mar. 15, 2013). That opinion held that Naas applies to cases where the plaintiff in the FDCPA action was properly named and served. In those cases, the one-year limitations period begins to run from the date the violation occurred, i.e., the date the offending lawsuit was filed. But where the FDCPA plaintiff wasn’t properly named and served, the court reasoned, Mangum’ s discovery rule applies. For example, in Greco–Rambo v. Prof’l Collection Consultants, 2011 WL 3759676, (S.D.Cal., Aug.25, 2011) (Sammartino, J.), the FDCPA plaintiff apparently never learned about the lawsuit until thirteen months after it was filed, when her wages were garnished. In that case, the plaintiff was given an opportunity to show that equitable tolling applied. ¶ In view of the persuasive reasoning of Huy Than Vo, the Court believes Naas should apply here. In any event, in the face of a direct conflict between two otherwise equally binding precedents, the Court would apply the earlier. See House v. Nevada, 2011 WL 336854, at *1 n. 1 (D.Nev., Jan.31, 2011) (citing Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 592 F.3d 954, 969 (9th Cir.2010)). ¶ Because Lyons’ claim accrued when the action was filed in Monterey County, over a year before she filed this action, her claims under the FDCPA are therefore time-barred.