Court Expands "Least Sophisticated" Standard to Include Attorneys? ("The Debt Collection Drill")
The concept that a debt collection communication must be viewed through the lens of the “least sophisticated consumer” is a fairly established tenet of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") law. While the application of this standard is often the subject of litigation, its premise is that a debt collection communication violates the FDCPA if it would deceive or confuse the least sophisticated consumer. The obvious exception to the “least sophisticated consumer” standard is collection communications with a consumer’s attorney. This exception is recognized by a number of courts – including the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Evory – which holds that assessing whether collection communications with an attorney for a consumer are deceptive will generally be judged using the “competent attorney” standard.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently broke new ground on the assessment of collection communications with attorneys in the Crawford decision, holding that statements in a proof of claim filed in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy are subject to the least sophisticated consumer standard. While the ruling in the Crawford case is most notable and challenging due to its interpretation of the intersection between bankruptcy law and the FDCPA, the implications regarding all collection communications with consumer attorneys is also substantial.
In the latest episode of The Debt Collection Drill audio blog, Moss & Barnett attorney John Rossman hosts a discussion with special guest attorney Sarah Doerr, from Moss & Barnett, about the impact of the Crawford decision not only on bankruptcy proofs of claim, but also to all collection communications with consumer attorneys.