Claim for $50 in attorney’s fees violates FDCPA (in Ohio)

October 18, 2012

Consumer, Mary, Moxley, entered into a consumer loan agreement with Cash Stop in order to borrow $279.96. The loan Agreement contained an attorney fee shifting provision. The provision purported to allow Cash Stop to charge Plaintiff attorney fees incurred to collect under the contract in the event of Plaintiff’s default. When the consumer defaulted, Cash Stop hired attorney Pfundstein to collect the debt under the loan agreement. Pfundstein filed a complaint against consumer to collect the debt. The complaint requested judgment in the amount of $319.96, which included default charges and other fees. In addition, the complaint sought $50.00 for attorney fees. The complaint stated: “In addition, whereas the defendant(s) agreed in the contract to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees, the plaintiff requests $50.00.”

Consumer filed a complaint in federal court against Pfundstein claiming that was guilty of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by making a false, misleading and deceptive statement in the lawsuit that he filed on behalf of Cash Stop against her with regard to the claim for recovery of attorney’s fees. The consumer then moved for summary judgment on her claim.

The unique aspect of this case is that under Ohio law, creditors are not permitted to recover attorney fees incurred in connection with debt collection suits involving personal, family, or household debt.

Defendant/attorney claimed that the request for attorney’s fees was a good faith mistake of law.

The Court granted the consumer’s motion for summary judgment noting that because the FDCPA has been generally recognized as a strict-liability statute, even a good-faith error can give rise to liability. The Court found that attorney Pfunstein had violated the FDCPA by seeking to recover $50 in attorney’s fees in the underlying action, when such fees were not permitted by Ohio law.

Moxley v. Pfundstein, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146868 (N.D. Ohio Oct. 11, 2012)