In Marshall v. Bonded Adjustment Co., 2011 WL 3882284 (E.D.Wash. 2011), Judge Peterson granted a protective order against discovery targeted towards an FDCPA defendant’s net worth in an FDCPA class action – until a class was actually certified.
Bonded argues that the court should issue a protective order preventing discovery of Bonded’s net worth information unless and until a class is certified. Bonded asserts that its net worth is irrelevant unless a class is certified, and that engaging in possibly unnecessary discovery would only increase costs of litigation. Mr. Marshall responds that Bonded had its chance to bifurcate discovery but chose not to do so and that bifurcating now would only delay litigation. In light of the sensitive nature of financial documentation and its conditional relevancy, the Court finds that there is good cause for entry of a protective order. ¶ An individual suing under the FDCPA may seek actual damages, statutory damages up to $1,000, costs, and fees. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(1)-(3). The named plaintiffs in a class action under the FDCPA make seek the same relief as an individual plaintiff. Id. § 1692k(a)(2)(B). Those class members who are not named plaintiffs may recover “such amount as the court may allow …, without regard to a minimum individual recovery, not to exceed the lesser of $500,000 or 1 per centum of the net worth of the debt collector.” Id. ¶ From the foregoing, it is clear that when an FDCPA action is brought as a class action, a debt collector’s net worth is relevant to the issue of class damages. However, when an FDCPA action is brought on behalf of an individual, the net worth damages provision does not apply. There has been no evidence or argument presented to support the conclusion that Bonded’s net worth is relevant outside of the class damages context.