Tatis v. Allied Interstate LLC, No. 16-4022 (3d Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
More than 10 years ago, Tatis incurred a debt of $1,289.86 to Bally Fitness. Allied, a debt collector, sent Tatis a letter dated May 18, 2015 stating: “[The creditor] is willing to accept payment in the amount of $128.99 in settlement of this debt. You can take advantage of this settlement offer if we receive payment of this amount or if you make another mutually acceptable payment arrangement within 40 days.” The six-year New Jersey limitations period for debt-collection actions had already run. Tatis filed a class action, alleging that Allied’s letter violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. 1692) because Tatis interpreted the word “settlement” to mean that she had a “legal obligation” to pay and the letter “[f]alsely represent[ed] the legal status of the debt" made “false threats to take action that cannot legally be taken,” and used “false representations and/or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect." The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Collection letters may violate the FDCPA by misleading or deceiving debtors into believing they have a legal obligation to repay time-barred debts even when the letters do not threaten legal action. The least-sophisticated debtor could plausibly be misled by the specific language used in Allied’s letter.