United States District Court, D. Maryland
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.
are three separate actions brought pursuant to the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), the Maryland
Consumer Debt Collection Act ("MCDCA"), and the
Maryland Consumer Protection Act ("MCPA"). Pending
before the court is Defendant Blibaum & Associates,
P.A.'s ("Blibaum") motion for summary judgment.
(ECF No. 50).The actions have been consolidated for the
purposes of this motion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
times relevant to this action, defendant law firm Blibaum
& Associates, P. A. ("Blibaum") acted as the
agent of Peak Management, LLC ("Peak"), and
Henderson-Webb, LLC ("Henderson-Webb), to recover debts
owed by the plaintiffs resulting from breaches of residential
leases. Blibaum filed breach of contract actions against
plaintiffs Amber Ben-Davies, Bryione K. Moore, Larry Chavis,
and Sharone Crowell, respectively, seeking damages resulting
from breaches of residential leases with either Peak or
Henderson-Webb. Blibaum obtained judgments in the District
Court of Baltimore County against all four
plaintiffs. In each judgment, the court ordered that
post-judgment interest would be assessed at the legal rate.
As a result of each plaintiffs failure to pay the judgment,
Blibaum filed requests for writs of garnishment of wages in
the District Court for Baltimore County. Blibaum disclosed
that it was using a ten percent post-judgment interest rate
in a letter to Ben-Davies, and in the requests for wage
garnishment against Moore, Chavis, and Crowell.
filed her complaint in this court on August 5, 2016, alleging
that Blibaum's use of a ten percent post-judgment
interest rate violated the FDCPA, the MCDCA, and the MCPA.
(Ben-Davies Compl, ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 1). Moore filed
her complaint on October 25, 2016, alleging the same. (Moore
Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, Civ. No. CCB-16-3546, ECF No.
Chavis and Crowell filed their complaint on August 7, 2017,
alleging violations of the FDCPA and the MCDCA. (Chavis &
Crowell Compl. ¶ 1-2, Civ. No. CCB-17-2220, ECF No. 1).
Ben-Davies and Moore alleged that because the applicable
statutory rate of post-judgment interest is limited to six
percent, Blibaum's attempt to collect using a ten percent
interest rate violated the FDCPA, the MCDCA, and the MCPA.
Chavis and Crowell alleged that Blibaum's attempts to
collect on their judgments using the ten percent interest
rate violated the FDCPA and the MCDCA (but not the MCPA).
26, 2017, Blibaum and Ben-Davies filed a joint motion
requesting that this court certify a question of law to the
Maryland Court of Appeals. (ECF No. 17). The parties sought a
stay of their lawsuit until the Maryland Court of Appeals
decided whether the legal rate of post-judgment interest to
be awarded in a breach of contract action, when the
underlying contract is a residential lease, is ten percent or
six percent. (Id. at 1-2). The parties agreed that
"the question presented [was] a novel issue of Maryland
law." (Id. at 2). Blibaum and Moore filed a
similar joint motion on July 26, 2017. (Civ. No. CCB-16-3546,
ECF No. 21). In light of this court's decision to certify
the question of law to the Maryland Court of Appeals,
Blibaum, Chavis, and Crowell filed a joint motion to stay
their lawsuit until the Court of Appeals decided the
question. (Civ. No. CCB-17-2220, ECF No. 5).
January 19, 2018, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion in
Ben-Davies v. Blibaum & Assocs., P.A., 457 Md.
228 (2018), finding that "where a landlord sues a tenant
for breach of contract based on a residential lease, and the
trial court enters judgment in the landlord's favor
against the tenant and the judgment includes damages for
unpaid rent and other expenses, a post-judgment interest rate
of 6% applies." Id. at 233.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted "if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). "A dispute is genuine if 'a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'"
Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313
(4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulcmey v. Packaging Corp. of
Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is
material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.'" Id. (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). Accordingly, "the mere existence of some
alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat
an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
judgment[.]" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.
court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct.
1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor, Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted);
see also Jacobs v. N.C Admin. Office of the Courts,
780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015). At the same time, the
court must "prevent factually unsupported claims and
defenses from proceeding to trial." Boachat v. Bait,
Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir.
2003) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774,
778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).
plaintiffs contend that Blibaum violated the FDCPA when it
sought to collect on judgments against them using a
post-judgment interest rate often percent. The FDCPA protects
consumers from abusive and deceptive debt collection
practices. United States v. Nat'l Fin. Serv.,
Inc., 98 F.3d 131, 135 (4th Cir. 1996). Wrongful
debt-collection practices include the collection or attempted
collection of "any amount (including any interest, . .)
unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement
creating the debt or permitted by law," 15 U.S.C. §
1692f(1). Wrongful debt-collection practices claims brought
under the FDCPA must be filed within one year of the alleged
violation. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d). Thus, for each
plaintiffs claim to be actionable under the FDCPA,
Blibaum's alleged violation must have occurred less than
one year prior to the filing of each complaint. Each
plaintiff can point to an occasion when Blibaum's
collection or attempted collection of amounts using the ten
percent interest rate fell within this actionable
window. Blibaum asserts, however, that because it
began attempting to collect from each plaintiff
before the actionable windows, the plaintiffs'
FDCPA claims are time-barred. The current timeliness dispute
thus turns on whether Blibaum's collection efforts during
the actionable period constitute independent violations of
the FDCPA, or whether they are merely continuations of the
same unlawful debt collection practice initiated at a date
prior to the actionable period.
Fourth Circuit has not decided whether FDCPA violations that
occur outside the statute of limitations period bar
plaintiffs from proceeding on subsequent but related
debt-collection communications. But courts in this district
have generally followed the rule that "the limitations
period for FDCPA claims begins from the date of the first
violation, and subsequent violations of the same type do not
restart the limitations period." Fontell v.
Hassett,870 F.Supp.2d 395, 404 (D. Md. 2012);
Archie v. Nagle & Zaller, PC., No. GJH-17-2524,
2018 WL 3475429, at *6 (D. Md. July 19, 2018);Costley v.
Bank of America, N.A., No. 13-cv-02488-ELH, 2017 WL
5564641, at *6-7 (D. Md. Nov. 20, 2017); Bey v. Shapiro
Brown &Alt, LLP, 997 F.Supp.2d 310, 316 (D. Md.
2014); McGhee v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A., No. DKC
12-3072, 2013 WL 4495797, at *7 n.10 (D. Md. Aug. 20, 2013);
Alston v. Cavalry Portfolio Services, LLC, No.
8:12-cv-03589, 2013 WL 665036, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 22, 2013).
Courts in this district have held that repeated attempts to
collect on a single debt are "subsequent violations of
the same type" that "do not restart the limitations
period." Fontell, 870 F.Supp.2d at 404
("Although each notice was undoubtedly unique in that
Plaintiffs initial assessment continued to accrue late fees,
the notices all related to collection of the same underlying
debt."); see also Costley, 2017 WL 5564641 at
*6 (holding that the plaintiffs FDCPA claim was time-barred
when the defendant's complained-about ...