Conversation With Caine & Weiner Takes An Unexpected Turn (Then Leads To A Lawsuit)

PSA to debt collectors: when a consumer calls you to say that they have retained legal representation, stop talking to that person immediately.

When Paulette Curtis cancelled her auto insurance policy with Safeco Insurance, she did so with the understanding that her premiums owed under the policy had already been paid in full.

She was surprised, then, when she later received a letter from Caine & Weiner alleging that she still owed Safeco $230. The letter explained that Caine & Weiner was a debt collection agency, and that Safeco had hired Caine & Weiner to collect the $230 from Paulette.

Caine & Weiner lawsuit

Consumer Hires An Attorney

The whole thing seemed fishy to Paulette. So, she decided to hire an attorney to represent her against the alleged debt.

In May 2015, Paulette called Caine & Weiner to inform them that she had hired an attorney to represent her in the matter and that she did not believe that she owed the alleged $230 debt.

According to court records, though, Caine & Weiner persisted in its efforts to collect money from Paulette. During that May 2015 phone call, Paulette would later recount, even after she had informed Caine & Weiner that she did not believe that she owed the alleged $230 debt and that she had hired an attorney to represent her in the matter, Caine & Weiner kept trying to convince her to pay Caine & Weiner anyway. More specifically, she recalled, Caine & Weiner tried to convince her to "set up a payment plan in lieu of her attorney representation." As you might imagine, Caine & Weiner's reasoning during that conversation might have gone something like this: if you have money to pay an attorney, why don't you just send that money to us instead, and the matter will be over.

Consumer Sues Caine & Weiner

Paulette eventually filed suit against Caine & Weiner under the Federal Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), alleging four violations of the FDCPA (the 2nd and 3rd of which were the court grouped together for discussion).

On motion, the court found that Paulette's factual allegations were sufficient to state claims under the FDCPA, and the court's explained basis for this finding was both succinct and instructive.

The four alleged FDCPA violations

  1. Section 1692c of the FDCPA, by continuing to communicate with Paulette regarding the alleged debt even after she informed them that she had hired an attorney to represent her in the matter.
  2. Sections 1692d & 1692f of the FDCPA, by trying to convince Paulette to "forego legal representation and to set up a payment plan to pay a debt that she did not owe."
  3. Section 1692e of the FDCPA, by attempting to collect a debt that was not actually owed.

In discussing these four alleged violations, the court actually offered some fairly straightforward answers to some frequently asked questions about debt collections. So, in the remainder of this article, we will examine the court's discussion of each alleged violation more closely.