On August 28, 2015, Gordon & Rees Washington, D.C. senior counsel Brian Scotti and New Jersey partner Ronald Giller obtained a dismissal, with prejudice, of a putative class action lawsuit filed against a national property management company.
Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, asserting claims under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (“MCDCA”) and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (“MCPA”) against the property management company as well as an attorney retained by the property management company to collect unpaid rents. Plaintiffs alleged they were part of a class of not less than 382 people that were purportedly subjected to unfair debt collection practices. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the property management company violated the MCDCA by attempting to collect a debt without a Maryland collection agency license. Additionally, Plaintiffs alleged that the property management company violated both the MCDCA and MCPA by allowing its collection attorney to place false and misleading “disclosure stamps” on court orders compelling Plaintiffs to appear and answer questions under oath relating to their financial status. A motion to dismiss was filed on behalf of the property management company arguing, among other things, that the property management company was not a “collection agency” under Maryland law and the “disclosure stamps” were not false or misleading or material in any way to the consumer.
In granting the motion to dismiss, the Court ruled, as a matter of law, the “disclosure stamps” affixed to court orders seeking to collect debt was not false or misleading to the least sophisticated consumer. Additionally, the Court held that the property management does not have to be licensed as a debt collection agency in Maryland because, in essence, it was seeking to collect its own debt.