Calogero v. Shows, Cali & Walsh, LLP, No. 19-30558 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim against SCW. In this case, SCW identified itself as a "debt collector" representing Louisiana and Road Home in connection with the hurricane relief grant plaintiff received, and sought an overpayment per a Road Home Program Agreement. Plaintiff alleged on behalf of herself and a proposed class that SCW violated the FDCPA for its purported use of misrepresentation, false or deceptive means, and unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt that cannot be legally taken.
The court held that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff's obligation to pay the Road Home Program did not fall under the FDCPA. The court applied the St. Pierre inquiry and held that plaintiff's obligation of repayment for excess grant money arises from a "transaction," which encompasses consensual agreements and negotiations like the one at issue; plaintiff voluntarily elected to avail herself of disaster relief money in exchange for consent to Road Home's covenants and subrogation agreements; and what plaintiff received in exchange for compliance with Road Home's terms was for the private benefit of a "personal, family, or household" service or good. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings.