Superlative RM Celebrates Win in Hunstein Copycat Case
PHOENIX, AZ – After nearly two years, Superlative RM, a collection agency with locations in Phoenix, AZ and Elk Grove, CA, is celebrating a recent victory in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. On June 16, 2021, the plaintiff, through her counsel, filed a class action lawsuit against Superlative RM and an investment group for a Hunstein styled ‘copy-cat’ case. The case was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, IL, Chancery Division. The case was based on the claim that the defendants violated the FDCPA by communicating information about a debt to a third party (letter vendor) without permission from the consumer.
SRM retained a well-known creditors rights firm to defend the case. The defendants argued that letter vendors are mediums used to transmit information and that modern mailing vendors’ systems are largely automated, with data processed not intervened by human eyes. Defendants cited subsections within the FDCPA which allow debt collectors to serve legal processes on consumers and use telephones and telegrams to communicate with consumers, further noting that the communication in question was not an attempt to collect a debt (dunning letter).
The co-defendant requested that the case be moved to federal court. In June of 2022, the federal court denied the request and moved the case back to Illinois, filing an order remanding the case back to Cook County, IL. Within this order, the federal judge noted that the type of communication in question fell under the scope of “ministerial duties” associated with debt collection, which is not what the FDCPA aimed to cover in its statements on third party disclosures. The plaintiff also stipulated that she has not suffered any actual damages. Judge Leinenweber noted on the 6/1/22 document:
In summary we have a debt collector who utilizes a third party to mail Dunning letters. Thus, the only individual having access to the debt information is the individual who created and mailed the Dunning letter. This ministerial activity is no different from what a lawyer’s secretary normally performs. The fact that a secretary is an employee rather than a contractual worker appears wholly irrelevant. In fact, many lawyers hire contract secretarial services, as well as court reporters. Suppose an attorney who is employed to collect a large debt is forced to file suit against the debtor and in course of the proceeding takes a deposition of the debtor before a court reporter, who is virtually always, like the third-party vendor in this case, a third-party vendor. Court reporters, like the third-party vendor in this case, are not covered by the permissible list of persons to whom the debt information may be disclosed.
Once back in IL court, SRM filed a Motion to Dismiss on the basis that Plaintiff could not establish an injury in fact and that no proof of communication could be made between SRM and its vendor. On March 15, 2023, the district judge published an order granting SRM’s Motion to Dismiss with prejudice. That case document can be accessed here.
About Superlative RM
“Superlative RM (SRM) is an accounts receivable management company that assists our clients by contacting consumers to resolve outstanding account balances. We are nationally licensed and work diligently to follow all current state and federal guidelines. Superlative RM bridges the gap between creditors and consumers by innovating user-friendly, digital account resolution options.”