A notice on the back of a collection letter written on attorney letterhead stating that no attorney has reviewed the account does not cure the deceptive impression that it is from an attorney and that legal action is being considered.
Mr. Lesher had an unpaid home equity account. The account was assigned to the Law Office of Mitchell N. Kay, P.C. (law firm) for collection. Mr. Lesher received two letters written on the law firm’s letterhead which advised on the first page that the account was being handled by the law firm. On the reverse side of the letters, a notice advised, “at this point in time, no attorney with this firm has personally reviewed the particular circumstances of your account.”
Mr. Lesher filed a lawsuit alleging that the letter was deceptive and in violation of the FDCPA as it falsely implied the involvement of an attorney and potential legal action despite the notice on the back of the letter. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania agreed finding in favor of Lesher. The law firm appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals held that the letters were deceptive and violated the FDCPA. The Court found that the “least sophisticated debtor” may believe that an attorney has reviewed the file and determined that legal action is appropriate. The notice on the back of the letters was found to do nothing to alleviate the false impression made by the letters as it contradicted the message on the front of the letters – that the creditor retained the law firm to collect the debt.
Lesher v. Law Offices of Mitchell N. Kay, P.C., Case No. 10-3194 (3d Cir. June 21, 2011).