In McCray v. Deitsch & Wright, No. 8:18-cv-731-EAK-SPF, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23516 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 11, 2019), Judge Kovachevisch found that a 30-day validation letter overshadowed the debtor’s validation rights by including language stating that “Be advised if we do not receive payment promptly we will be forced to take additional action to recover the subject amounts.”
After a thorough review of relevant, precedential authority, the Court finds Defendant’s Letter violated Section 1692g(b) as a matter of law. Defendant’s Letter requested Plaintiff “immediately” contact Defendant at its office telephone number to make full payment of the debt. (Doc. 1-1) (emphasis added). In addition, the Letter advised that Defendant had been “authorized to use any means at [its] disposal” to “collect the full balance of the debt” and threatened “additional action” if Defendant did not “receive payment promptly” Id. (emphasis added). Further, the Letter includes no “safe harbor” or “transitional language” explaining that, notwithstanding Defendant’s demand, Plaintiff still retained the right to make a written request within thirty days for validation of the debt and for information about the original creditor, and that such a request would force Defendant to cease its collection efforts and provide Plaintiff with the requested information. Id. Moreover, Defendant’s Letter was sent on its law firm letterhead containing a hand [*17] signed attorney signature. Id. “A debt collection letter on an attorney’s letterhead conveys authority,” and “[a]n unsophisticated consumer, getting a letter from an attorney, knows the price of poker has just gone up.” Avila v. Rubin, 84 F.3d 222, 229 (7th Cir. 1996). Thus, at a minimum, an unsophisticated consumer receiving Defendant’s Letter would be unable to reconcile with any degree of success the inherent inconsistency created by the Letter’s disjunctive demand (by an attorney) for immediate payment and threat of additional (likely legal) action and its corresponding, yet contradictory, notice of Plaintiff’s right to dispute the debt within thirty days. Additionally, as stressed by Miller, if Plaintiff had attempted to exercise her statutory rights by calling Defendant at the bolded and underlined telephone number included in the Letter (as opposed to submitting a written request), she may very well have waived her statutory rights, as Defendant would be under no obligation to comply with Section 1692g(b)’s directives to verify the debt or disclose the original creditor and cease its collection efforts. Therefore, the Court finds that the Letter’s demands and threats overshadowed and were inconsistent with the Letter’s Section 1692g(a) disclosures. 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b). Accordingly, [*18] Plaintiff is entitled to judgment on the pleadings on her Section 1692g(b) overshadowing claim.