A federal judge in Camden, N.J. approved a class-action lawsuit settlement against law firm Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller and Executive Credit Management for alleged Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violations.
The defendants, based in Cherry Hill, N.J. and Stanhope, N.J., agreed to pay $2,500 to the class representative, Monique Wilson; $7,000 to the 225 other class members; and $40,000 in fees to New Jersey-based attorneys Laura Mann and Joseph Jones, legal counsel for the class. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Williams approved the settlement.
The suit, Wilson v. Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, was filed in January 2013. It alleged the defendants violated the FDCPA by sending letters that left out language, required by the federal law, explaining that consumers can dispute debts within 30 days of receiving an initial collection notice and that debts will be presumed valid if they do not object within that timeframe.
Wilsons debt to a landlord, totaling $4,241, was sold to Executive Credit Management, which then sold it to Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, according to the suit. The law firm sent Wilson the non-conforming letter in October 2012.
The letter stated that if Wilson disputed the debt within 30 days of receipt, the firm would provide a copy of the judgment or the name of the original creditor and verification of the debts. But they failed to explain that the debt would be presumed valid if not disputed after 30 days.
Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller contended that it complied with the notice requirement with a statement in the letter that "Should you fail to respond within 30 days, we will recommend that our client commence an action against you to protect its rights."
The case originally went to discovery, which revealed that the law firms standard collection letter included all the statutory language at one time but a revision was made around the time Wilsons letter was sent, removing the phrase about disputing the debt.
The $7,000 aggregate payment to the class is based on the FDCPAs requirement that such recovery is limited to 1% of the defendants net worth. If no class members opt out, recovery would amount to about $30 per class member.