Metro Portfolios Escapes Liability for Suing on Time-Barred Claim Due to Debtor's Failure to Vacate Judgment

At The Langel Firm, we defend consumer debt lawsuits and bring separate federal lawsuits against those same collectors who violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) within the context of those lawsuits. More than half of our clientele contact us because they are under the threat of judgment enforcement. Sometimes, the judgments are predicated, arise from, or are related to litigation-based, FDCPA violations; For example, the suit was commenced in the wrong county or past the statute of limitations.

The lesson in this case[1]: Before bringing any FDCPA against any debt collector (lawyers included) for litigation-based violations that could be construed as defenses to the underlying debt lawsuit, vacate the judgment first!

In Raydos, a consumer sued Metro Portfolios and its lawyers, Cohen & Slamowitz, for bringing suit for breach of a Providian Credit Card. He alleged that bringing suit after 5 years of his last payment violated the governing statute of limitations, and therefore violated the FDCPA.

Prior to trial, the court, on its own accord, examined its jurisdiction over the matter under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine (rule barring federal actions claiming injury caused by a state-court judgment) and theFull Faith and Credit doctrine (rule giving deferential, preclusive effect to the finality of other judgments).

Although Plaintiff "narrowly mooted" Rooker-Feldman applicability by withdrawing his actual damages claim, the court held that he waived his statute of limitations argument because he failed to raise it as a defense in the state-collection action. Having failed to raise it in an answer, and having failed to use it to challenge the judgment, the "judgment crystallized the resolution that the state lawsuit was timely," the court held.

The preclusive "res judicata" doctrine applies to default judgments.

The court held, "as a result, this case necessarily is an attempt to relitigate a claim whose resolution in state court deserved full faith and credit from the court."

The reasoning and holdings in this case confirm our regular practice of vacating judgments prior to bringing FDCPA cases for conduct that reasonably relate to those underlying judgments.



[1] (Raydos v. Cohen & Slamowitz 8-cv-4A (W.D. New York, 2009)

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