FI LED: J anuar y 31, 2014

UNI TED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CI RCUI T

___________________
No. 13- 1151
( 5: 12- cv- 00400- BO)
___________________
DANA CLARK, on behal f of her sel f and al l ot her s si mi l ar l y
si t uat ed; DAVI D CLARK, on behal f of hi msel f and al l ot her s
si mi l ar l y si t uat ed

Pl ai nt i f f s - Appel l ant s

v.

ABSOLUTE COLLECTI ON SERVI CE, I NCORPORATED

Def endant – Appel l ee
___________________

O R D E R
___________________
The cour t amends i t s opi ni on f i l ed J anuar y 31, 2014, as
f ol l ows:
On t he cover page, i n t he di sposi t i on sect i on, " Rever sed" i s
cor r ect ed t o r ead " Vacat ed. "
On page 10, l i ne 10, " REVERSED" i s cor r ect ed t o r ead
" VACATED. "
For t he Cour t - - By Di r ect i on
/ s/ Pat r i ci a S. Connor , Cl er k
PUBLISHED

UNI TED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CI RCUI T


No. 13-1151


DANA CLARK, on behal f of her sel f and al l ot her s si mi l ar l y
si t uat ed; DAVI D CLARK, on behal f of hi msel f and al l ot her s
si mi l ar l y si t uat ed,

Pl ai nt i f f s - Appel l ant s,

v.

ABSOLUTE COLLECTI ON SERVI CE, I NCORPORATED,

Def endant - Appel l ee.



Appeal f r om t he Uni t ed St at es Di st r i ct Cour t f or t he East er n
Di st r i ct of Nor t h Car ol i na, at Ral ei gh. Ter r ence W. Boyl e,
Di st r i ct J udge. ( 5: 12- cv- 00400- BO)


Ar gued: Oct ober 30, 2013 Deci ded: J anuar y 31, 2014


Bef or e DI AZ and FLOYD, Ci r cui t J udges, and J oseph F. ANDERSON,
J r . , Uni t ed St at es Di st r i ct J udge f or t he Di st r i ct of Sout h
Car ol i na, si t t i ng by desi gnat i on.


Vacat ed and r emanded by publ i shed per cur i amopi ni on.


ARGUED: Deepak Gupt a, GUPTA BECK, PLLC, Washi ngt on, D. C. , f or
Appel l ant s. Sean T. Par t r i ck, YATES, MCLAMB & WEYHER, LLP,
Ral ei gh, Nor t h Car ol i na, f or Appel l ee. ON BRIEF: Cr ai g M.
Shapi r o, KEOGH LAW, LTD. , Chi cago, I l l i noi s; J oseph A. Bl edsoe,
THE BLEDSOE LAW FI RM, Fayet t evi l l e, Nor t h Car ol i na; Gr egor y A.
Beck, J onat han E. Tayl or , GUPTA BECK, PLLC, Washi ngt on, D. C. ,
f or Appel l ant s. J enni f er D. Mal donado, Wi l l i am T. Kesl er , J r . ,

2

YATES, MCLAMB & WEYHER, LLP, Ral ei gh, Nor t h Car ol i na, f or
Appel l ee.


3

PER CURI AM:
Thi s case i nvol ves a put at i ve cl ass act i on under t he Fai r
Debt Col l ect i on Pr act i ces Act ( “FDCPA”) , 15 U. S. C. § 1692 et
seq. Dana Cl ar k and Davi d Cl ar k ( “t he Cl ar ks”) sued Absol ut e
Col l ect i on Ser vi ce, I nc. ( “ACS”) ,
1
on behal f of t hemsel ves and
al l ot her s si mi l ar l y si t uat ed, f or i t s act i ons i n at t empt i ng t o
col l ect a debt . The Cl ar ks al l eged t hat ACS’ s col l ect i on not i ce
vi ol at ed sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) of t he FDCPA by st at i ng t hat
debt or s onl y coul d di sput e t he val i di t y of t hei r debt i n
wr i t i ng. ACS moved t o di smi ss t he Cl ar ks’ l awsui t , cont endi ng
t hat t he col l ect i on not i ce compl i ed wi t h t he FDCPA because
sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) cont ai ns an i nher ent wr i t i ng r equi r ement .
The di st r i ct cour t gr ant ed t he mot i on, and t he Cl ar ks appeal ed.
For t he r easons set f or t h bel ow, we vacat e t he di st r i ct cour t ' s
j udgment and r emand t he case f or f ur t her consi der at i on.
I .
The Cl ar ks i ncur r ed t wo debt s at a heal t h car e f aci l i t y i n
Ral ei gh, Nor t h Car ol i na. When t he Cl ar ks wer e unabl e t o pay,
t he heal t h car e f aci l i t y r ef er r ed t he debt s t o ACS, a t hi r d-
par t y col l ect or . I n i t s ef f or t s t o col l ect , ACS sent separ at e

1
ACS changed i t s cor por at e name on J une 29, 2012, af t er
t hi s case was f i l ed. Al t hough t he def endant now i s cal l ed
FKAACS, I nc. , we r ef er t o i t as ACS t hr oughout .
4

col l ect i on not i ces t o t he Cl ar ks at t hei r home i n Ral ei gh. I n
bot h col l ect i on not i ces, a di scl osur e st at ement pr ovi ded t hat :
ALL PORTI ONS OF THI S CLAI M SHALL BE ASSUMED VALI D
UNLESS DI SPUTED I N WRI TI NG WI THI N THI RTY ( 30) DAYS; I N
WHI CH CASE, VERI FI CATI ON OF THE DEBT OR A COPY OF THE
J UDGMENT WI LL BE PROVI DED TO YOU. I F THE ORI GI NAL
CREDI TOR I S DI FFERENT FROM THE ABOVE NAMED CREDI TOR,
THE NAME OF THE ORI GI NAL CREDI TOR WI LL BE PROVI DED
UPON REQUEST.

J . A. 11, 12.

The Cl ar ks sued ACS i n t he Uni t ed St at es Di st r i ct Cour t f or
t he East er n Di st r i ct of Nor t h Car ol i na, at Ral ei gh, al l egi ng
t hat i t s col l ect i on not i ce f ai l ed t o compl y wi t h t he FDCPA. 15
U. S. C. § 1692 et seq. The Cl ar ks asser t ed t hat ACS vi ol at ed
t hei r r i ght t o chal l enge t hei r debt or al l y under sect i on
1692g( a) ( 3) of t he FDCPA because t he col l ect i on not i ce st at ed
t hat t he debt woul d be “assumed val i d unl ess di sput ed i n
wr i t i ng. ” They al so cont ended t hat ACS’ s i mposi t i on of a
wr i t i ng r equi r ement amount ed t o t he use of “f al se r epr esent at i on
or decept i ve means t o col l ect or at t empt t o col l ect any debt , ”
i n vi ol at i on of sect i on 1692e( 10) of t he FDCPA.
ACS moved t o di smi ss t he compl ai nt pur suant t o Rul e
12( b) ( 6) of t he Feder al Rul es of Ci vi l Pr ocedur e, ar gui ng t hat
sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) cont ai ns an i nher ent wr i t i ng r equi r ement and
t hat t he Cl ar ks, t her ef or e, f ai l ed t o st at e a cl ai m upon whi ch
r el i ef coul d be gr ant ed. The di st r i ct cour t agr eed, di smi ssi ng
5

t he compl ai nt . I n i t s r easoni ng, t he di st r i ct cour t st at ed t hat
per mi t t i ng an or al di sput e of t he val i di t y of a debt under
sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) woul d l eave consumer s “wi t h f ewer
pr ot ect i ons and i n a pot ent i al l y f ar mor e conf usi ng st at i on t han
i f a wr i t i ng i s r equi r ed. ” J . A. 26.
I I .
We r evi ew de novo t he di st r i ct cour t ’ s deci si on t o gr ant
t he mot i on t o di smi ss. Gi ar r at ano v. J ohnson, 521 F. 3d 298, 302
( 4t h Ci r . 2008) . We al so r evi ew de novo quest i ons of st at ut or y
const r uct i on. St one v. I nst r ument at i on Lab. Co. , 591 F. 3d 239,
242- 43 ( 4t h Ci r . 2009) .
A.
As i n al l st at ut or y const r uct i on cases, our i nqui r y begi ns
wi t h t he l anguage of t he st at ut e. See Lami e v. U. S. Tr . , 540
U. S. 526, 534 ( 2004) . “[ W] hen t he st at ut e’ s l anguage i s pl ai n,
t he sol e f unct i on of t he cour t s—at l east wher e t he di sposi t i on
r equi r ed by t he t ext i s not absur d—i s t o enf or ce i t accor di ng t o
i t s t er ms. ” I d. ( i nt er nal quot at i on mar ks omi t t ed) .
Congr ess enact ed t he FDCPA wi t h t he goal of el i mi nat i ng
abusi ve, decept i ve, and unf ai r debt col l ect i on pr act i ces. 15
U. S. C. § 1692. Among i t s saf eguar ds agai nst abuse and
decept i on, t he FDCPA r equi r es a debt col l ect or t o send wr i t t en
not i ce t o consumer debt or s wi t h whom i t communi cat es i n
6

connect i on wi t h t he col l ect i on of a debt . 15 U. S. C. § 1692g.
Sect i on 1692g( a) pr ovi des t hat t he wr i t t en not i ce must cont ai n:

( 1) t he amount of t he debt ;
( 2) t he name of t he cr edi t or t o whomt he debt i s owed;
( 3) a st at ement t hat unl ess t he consumer , wi t hi n t hi r t y
days af t er r ecei pt of t he not i ce, di sput es t he
val i di t y of t he debt , or any por t i on t her eof , t he
debt wi l l be assumed t o be val i d by t he debt
col l ect or ;

( 4) a st at ement t hat i f t he consumer not i f i es t he debt
col l ect or i n wr i t i ng wi t hi n t he t hi r t y- day per i od
t hat t he debt , or any por t i on t her eof , i s di sput ed,
t he debt col l ect or wi l l obt ai n ver i f i cat i on of t he
debt or a copy of a j udgment agai nst t he consumer
and a copy of such ver i f i cat i on or j udgment wi l l be
mai l ed t o t he consumer by t he debt col l ect or ; and

( 5) a st at ement t hat , upon t he consumer ’ s wr i t t en
r equest wi t hi n t he t hi r t y- day per i od, t he debt
col l ect or wi l l pr ovi de t he consumer wi t h t he name
and addr ess of t he or i gi nal cr edi t or , i f di f f er ent
f r omt he cur r ent cr edi t or .

15 U. S. C. § 1692g( a) ( 1) –( 5) .
Pur suant t o sect i on 1692g( b) , i f a consumer “not i f i es t he
debt col l ect or i n wr i t i ng” t hat t he debt i s di sput ed, t he debt
col l ect or must “cease col l ect i on of t he debt , or any di sput ed
por t i on t her eof , unt i l t he debt col l ect or obt ai ns ver i f i cat i on
of t he debt . . . and a copy of such ver i f i cat i on . . . i s
mai l ed t o t he consumer by t he debt col l ect or . ” 15 U. S. C. §
1692g( b) .
7

On appeal , t he Cl ar ks ask whet her sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3)
per mi t s consumer s t o di sput e t he val i di t y of a debt or al l y, or
whet her i t i mposes a wr i t i ng r equi r ement . Thi s i s a mat t er of
f i r st i mpr essi on f or t hi s Cour t . The Thi r d Ci r cui t has hel d
t hat sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) must be r ead t o i ncl ude a wr i t i ng
r equi r ement , f i ndi ng any ot her r eadi ng cont r ar y t o t he pur poses
of t he FDCPA. See Gr azi ano v. Har r i son, 950 F. 2d 107 ( 3d Ci r .
1991) . I n cont r ast , t he Second and Ni nt h Ci r cui t s have f ound
t hat t he pl ai n t ext of sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) per mi t s or al
di sput es, and t hat such a r eadi ng r esul t s i n a l ogi cal ,
bi f ur cat ed scheme of consumer r i ght s. See Hooks v. For man,
Hol t , El i ades & Ravi n, LLC, 717 F. 3d 282 ( 2d Ci r . 2013) ; Camacho
v. Br i dgepor t Fi n. I nc. , 430 F. 3d 1078 ( 9t h Ci r . 2005) .
I n l i ne wi t h t he Second and Ni nt h Ci r cui t s, we f i nd t hat
t he FDCPA cl ear l y def i nes communi cat i ons bet ween a debt
col l ect or and consumer s. Sect i ons 1692g( a) ( 4) , 1692g( a) ( 5) , and
1692g( b) expl i ci t l y r equi r e wr i t t en communi cat i on, wher eas
sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) pl ai nl y does not .
2
ACS asks t hat we
di sr egar d t he st at ut or y t ext t o r ead i nt o i t wor ds t hat ar e not
t her e. We decl i ne t o do so. “[ W] her e Congr ess i ncl udes

2
We al so not e t hat t he t er m “di sput e, ” as commonl y used,
cont empl at es or al communi cat i on. See, e. g. , Random House
Webst er ’ s Unabr i dged Di ct i onar y 569 ( 2d ed. 2001) ( “t o ar gue or
debat e about ; di scuss”) .
8

par t i cul ar l anguage i n one sect i on of a st at ut e but omi t s i t i n
anot her sect i on of t he same Act , i t i s gener al l y pr esumed t hat
Congr ess act s i nt ent i onal l y and pur posel y i n t he di spar at e
i ncl usi on or excl usi on. ” Russel l o v. Uni t ed St at es, 464 U. S.
16, 23 ( 1983) ( i nt er nal quot at i on mar ks omi t t ed) .
B.
Accept i ng t hat sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) does not cont ai n an
expl i ci t wr i t i ng r equi r ement , ACS ar gues t hat i t must be r ead as
i mposi ng an i nher ent wr i t i ng r equi r ement or el se t he pr ocedur e
woul d be i nconsi st ent wi t h t he ot her debt di sput e mechani sms
under sect i on 1692g. I n ACS’ s vi ew, al l owi ng or al di sput es
under sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) ser ves onl y t o conf use consumer s. ACS
al so poi nt s out t hat a wr i t i ng r equi r ement pr eser ves t he cor e
pr ot ect i ons of sect i ons 1692g( a) ( 3) t hr ough 1692g( b) , and al l
ot her r i ght s consumer s have under ot her sect i ons of t he FDCPA.
Wi t hout i t , ACS ar gues, “consumer s may be l ed t o bel i eve t hat an
or al di sput e t r i gger s t he f ur t her pr ot ect i ons” of sect i ons
1692g( a) ( 4) , 1692g( a) ( 5) , and 1692g( b) when, i n f act , t hose
pr ot ect i ons ar e wai ved i f not i nvoked i n wr i t i ng. Appel l ee’ s
Br . at 21.
We f i nd ACS’ s ar gument s unavai l i ng f or sever al r easons.
Fi r st , l i ke t he Second and Ni nt h Ci r cui t s, we ar e not per suaded
t hat t he pl ai n l anguage of sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) l eads t o absur d
r esul t s, whi ch woul d have per mi t t ed a sear ch f or meani ng beyond
9

t he st at ut or y t ext . See Lami e, 540 U. S. at 534. As wr i t t en,
sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) t r i gger s st at ut or y pr ot ect i ons f or consumer s
i ndependent of t he l at er sect i ons 1692g( a) ( 4) , 1692g( a) ( 5) , and
1692g( b) . For one, once a consumer di sput es a debt or al l y under
sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) , a debt col l ect or cannot communi cat e t hat
consumer ’ s cr edi t i nf or mat i on t o ot her s wi t hout di scl osi ng t he
di sput e. 15 U. S. C. § 1692e( 8) ; see Hooks, 717 F. 3d at 285;
Camacho, 430 F. 3d at 1082. Al so, i f a consumer owes mul t i pl e
debt s and makes a payment , a debt col l ect or cannot appl y t hat
payment t o a debt t hat has been di sput ed or al l y. See 15 U. S. C.
§ 1692( h) ; Hooks, 717 F. 3d at 285–86; Camacho, 430 F. 3d at 1082.
Because we concl ude t hat t he pl ai n l anguage of sect i on
1692g( a) ( 3) does not l ead t o absur d r esul t s, we decl i ne t o
i nser t addi t i onal l anguage.
Second, under wel l - est abl i shed pr i nci pl es of st at ut or y
const r uct i on, t hi s Cour t must “gi ve ef f ect , i f possi bl e, t o
ever y cl ause and wor d of a st at ut e. ” Uni t ed St at es v. Menasche,
348 U. S. 528, 538- 39 ( 1955) ( i nt er nal quot at i on mar ks omi t t ed) .
I f possi bl e, a cour t shoul d avoi d an i nt er pr et at i on t hat r ender s
any “cl ause, sent ence, or wor d . . . super f l uous, voi d, or
i nsi gni f i cant . ” Duncan v. Wal ker , 533 U. S. 167, 174 ( 2001) .
Rel yi ng on t he wr i t i ng r equi r ement s i n sect i ons 1692g( a) ( 4) ,
1692g( a) ( 5) , and 1692g( b) t o gi ve ef f ect t o sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3)
10

woul d vi ol at e t hese pr i nci pl es, l eavi ng sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) wi t h
no i ndependent meani ng.
As a r esul t , we f i nd t hat sect i on 1692g( a) ( 3) per mi t s
consumer s t o di sput e t he val i di t y of a debt or al l y, and i t does
not i mpose a wr i t i ng r equi r ement .
I I I .
Accor di ngl y, we vacat e t he j udgment of t he di st r i ct cour t
t hat di smi ssed t he pl ai nt i f f ' s compl ai nt and r emand f or f ur t her
pr oceedi ngs consi st ent wi t h t hi s opi ni on.
VACATED AND REMANDED

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