8/7/13Daily Business Review: Settlement Reached in Class Action Against Marshall Watsonwww.dailybusinessreview.com/PubArticleFriendlyDBR.jsp?id=12026142590792/3
every day. There are few attorneys that are competent in FDCPA. The problem is everyone is copying everyone else'spaperwork. I've seen errors that have tracked back to 2002."He has garnered some powerful support in the lawsuit filed against McCalla Raymer, which has offices in South Florida.Washington-based Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group, has joined in Owens' appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit."We're very interested in decisions under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and try to be aware of lower court decisionsthat may undercut the act," said Scott Nelson, a staff lawyer at Public Citizen. "When Scott Owens brought this case to our attention, we felt the district court's decision undercut the act by not recognizing that the letter was an initial contact by a debtcollector containing an effort to collect the debt. The court treated it as a trivial matter."On May 2, Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King in Miami dismissed the case filed on behalf of a Miamihomeowner who fell behind on a $269,786 mortgage."Debt collectors are not required to use the exact language of the statute so long as the language they use would notmislead the least sophisticated consumer regarding the nature of their rights in contesting the debt," he wrote. "The letter could not be reasonably interpreted as confusing to the least sophisticated consumer."
Law Firm Liability
Matthew Weidner, a St. Petersburg foreclosure defense lawyer, said he and other colleagues have started using FDCPA asgrounds to fight foreclosures under a 2012 ruling by the Eleventh Circuit opening the door."There used to be this artificial firewall that existed in foreclosure that exempted law firms from these actions," he said. "Thatwas an artificial creation and bad law. To say that a bank or law firm that is throwing me out of my home is not a debtcollector but a credit card calling me on my cellphone is absurd."Weidner said he and other foreclosure lawyers are raising the issue on individual foreclosure suits rather than classactions."We find class actions unwieldy and do not provide very satisfactory results for individuals," he said. Are law firms reacting to the new actions and making sure their dunning letters comply with the FDCPA? Some are, andsome aren't, Weidner said."There's a disconnect among law firms," he said. "Some are now stamping the debt collection notice on the bottom of theletters, and some aren't."Watson, under investigation by The Florida Bar for lapses tied to the robo-signing scandal, agreed last December to a 91-day law license suspension and the closing of his firm. The agreement amounts to the toughest disciplinary action to dategrowing out of the questionable practices of lenders and their lawyers during the housing crisis. At the height of the foreclosure crisis, Watson's firm was one of the top plaintiffs foreclosure firms in Florida, handling morethan 66,000 cases with 71 lawyers and 597 support staff.