Balancing Act: Supreme Court Rules That Filing a Proof of Claim for Stale Debt Does Not Violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

By: Phoebe S. Winder, Andrew C. Glass, Gregory N. Blase, Sean R. Higgins, David A. Mawhinney, Theresa A. Roozen, and Brandon R. Dillman

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the filing of a proof of claim in bankruptcy proceedings with respect to time-barred debt is not a “false, deceptive, misleading, unfair, or unconscionable” act within the meaning of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) when there continues to be a right to repayment after the expiration of the limitations period under applicable state law. The Court’s decision in Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson [1] resolved a split among the federal courts of appeal about the application of the FDCPA to proofs of claim in bankruptcy proceedings. While the decision is favorable for creditors, applicable state law (Alabama, in this case) played a key role in the Court’s conclusion that the creditor held a “claim” under the Bankruptcy Code. Creditors must be aware of and review the relevant state law in the jurisdiction of collection to determine whether the filing of a proof of claim could be deemed false, deceptive, or misleading.

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