Recently, a lawyer sent a collection letter to his client. The letter allegedly included implied threats to sue. The court said that, despite the lawyer’s right to sue, the manner in which the letter was written might have confused the debtor as to the statutory right to dispute the debt. The court further stated that the FDCPA was not intended to protect lawyers, but rather to protect “regular people.”
The defendant-lawyer said that if he has the right to sue (which he does); how does his mentioning that fact violate the Act by saying so? Reading the opinion does not give a clear answer to this question.
However, the moral of the saga, is that a lawyer’s writing must be very clear. The underlying message of the case, it seems to me, supports my lifelong premise: do not threaten. Mean what you say and say what you mean. In other words, if you are not sure whether you are going to sue, do not say so. And when you say you will sue, mean it and follow through by filing an action.
This becomes particularly important in dealing with clients and former clients, and especially those that are governed by a federal act such as the FDCPA.