ST. LOUIS — Summary judgment has been granted to a debt collector that had been sued by a woman who claimed the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by asking for contact information after being informed that she had a lawyer. 

U.S. District Judge John Bodenhausen of the Eastern District of Missouri issued the ruling on Oct. 12 in a case brought by Debra Klein against Stellar Recovery Inc. involving a single incident that occurred last year when Klein called the defendant to ask about a $176 debt that appeared on her credit report.

According to background information in the ruling, the conversation Klein initiated with Stellar Recovery representative Sara Cook involved questions and answers about her contact information and details of the debt, which Cook said was to Comcast. Klein told Cook she had hired an attorney to handle her debts and asked that her account be updated to reflect that information. Klein provided her attorney's contact information and told Cook she could update her account with current contact information that she provided.

Klein sued on the basis that a debt collector cannot communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of a debt if the collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to that debt, the ruling states.

In response, Stellar Recovery argued it did not violate the FDCPA because "its request for plaintiff’s contact information was not a 'communication in connection with the collection' of the debt," the ruling states.

"Defendant made no further attempt to contact plaintiff," the ruling states. "Defendant asserts, and plaintiff does not contest, that the purpose of asking for plaintiff’s current contact information was to ensure that the proper information was included in plaintiff’s 'consumer file with the credit bureaus and to advise Comcast of the updated information for its customer.'”

Bodenhausen agreed with Stellar Recovery that its request for contact information was not communication in connection with an attempt to collect a debt.

"First, plaintiff initiated the contact," Bodenhausen wrote. "In addition, according to Ms. Cook — and unrefuted by plaintiff — defendant’s only other attempt to contact plaintiff had been made more than a year earlier. Thus, the record does not establish that defendant was aggressively pursuing collection of this debt."

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