In Grandidier v. Quantum3 Group, LLC, 2014 WL 6908482 (S.D.Ind. 2014), Judge Young found that the FDCPA prohibits filing proofs of claim in bankruptcy court on debts that would be barred by the statute of limitations.
The Eleventh Circuit recently decided a case nearly identical to the one before the court. See Crawford v. LVNV Funding, LLC, 758 F.3d 1254 (11th Cir.2014). In Crawford, the defendant acquired a debt owed by the plaintiff. Several years later, the plaintiff filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Id. at 1257. The creditor filed a proof of claim to collect upon that debt despite the fact that the statute of limitations period had expired four years earlier. Id. Unlike the present case, the debtor and trustee failed to object to the claim and it was subsequently paid. Id. at 1259. The plaintiff brought an FDCPA claim in an adversary proceeding. Id. at 1257. Because the facts are so similar to the case before the court, the court finds the Crawford decision to be particularly persuasive. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that “[f]iling a proof of claim is the first step in collecting a debt in bankruptcy and is, at the very least, an ‘indirect’ means of collecting a debt.” Crawford, 758 F.3d at 1262. As the Eleventh Circuit explained: “[t]he reason behind [Defendant’s] practice of filing the time-barred proofs of claim in bankruptcy court is simple. Absent an objection from either the Chapter 13 debtor or trustee, the time-barred claim is automatically allowed against the debtor …. As a result, the debtor must then pay the debt from his future wages as part of the Chapter 13 repayment plan, notwithstanding that the debt is time-barred and unenforceable in court.” Id. at 1259. In essence, the creditor is trying to use the bankruptcy system to collect upon a debt, which it cannot use other legal means to collect. See Phillips v. Asset Acceptance, LLC, 736 F.3d 1076, 1079 (7th Cir.2013); see also Crawford, 758 F.3d at 1259 (noting that federal courts have uniformly held that a creditor violates the FDCPA if it threatens to sue on a time-barred debt or files a time-barred suit). By filing a proof of claim, the creditor creates the misleading impression to the debtor that the debt collector can legally enforce the debt. See Crawford, 758 F.3d at 1261. The least sophisticated consumer would be unaware that such a claim is time-barred and thus unenforceable. Id. Thus, as the Eleventh Circuit found, the court concludes that such a filing is “unfair,” “unconscionable,” “deceptive,” and “misleading” within the scope of § 1692e and § 1692f. Id. Thus, Plaintiffs have stated a claim under Section 1692e just as the plaintiff did in Crawford.