Upstate law firm Upton, Cohen & Slamowitz are still in a EDNY debt collection case brought by an irate consumer. The consumer’s claim is that the law firm did not follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) obligation to review the case before sending a dunning letter, and that it have meaningful attorney involvement,.
The case continues.
"In rejecting Upton Cohen’s summary judgment motion last week, Eastern District Judge Raymond Dearie ruled that Upton Cohen had not sufficiently shown it had conducted an adequate review of Mr. Miller’s file.
"Neither the facts about defendant’s familiarity with its client, nor those about the procedure it followed prior to sending the July 18, 2000, debt collection letter to plaintiff, preclude the possibility that a reasonable jury could find that it failed to satisfy [the FDCPA’s] requirement for meaningful attorney involvement," Judge Dearie wrote in Miller v. Wolpoff & Abramson, 01 Civ. 1126.
He noted that the act requires that lawyers sending debt collection letters to have made some independent evaluation of the claims and not simply rely on a client’s assertion that a debt is owed. He said Mr. Slamovitz’s review of the facts appeared to have been "largely ministerial," with the lawyer relying heavily on the department store’s version of events.
Judge Dearie further noted that Mr. Slamovitz’s reliance on Lord & Taylor did not appear to be based on any knowledge of the store’s review procedures with regard to overdue accounts.
Upton Cohen’s large volume of debt collections also factored into the judge’s decision. He noted that the firm sent letters to 3,284 debtors in July 2000. This level of activity "raises doubts about defendant’s claims to have conducted a careful review of plaintiff’s file," the judge wrote.
Mr. Miller also had originally sued Rockville, Md.’s Wolpoff & Abramson, a much larger debt collection firm that referred the case to Upton Cohen. But that firm reached an agreement with the plaintiff.
Upton Cohen was represented by Mark Anesh of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker."