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Recent Developments In California Class Action Defense

A New Twist On Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Class Actions

California courts have been inundated with class actions alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and its California equivalent, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, California Civil Code § 1788 et seq. While California class action firms originally named the debt collection companies, the lawsuits were soon expanded to include California and out-of-state lawyers and law firms that assisted such debt collection companies in their efforts.

According to a June 20, 2006, press release prepared by the law firm of Brennan, Wiener & Associates of La Crescenta, California, a California putative class action was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Kenneth Holtzclaw and Shane Satey against Great Seneca Financial Corporation, and against the Maryland law firm of Wolpoff & Abramson. Wolpoff & Abramson, LLP is a national law firm with approximately 850 employees. The firm is noted for its debt collection practice work and its representation of national retail and banking clients. According to the press release, “Wolpoff & Abramson set up Great Seneca just to try to insulate itself from unfair debt collection lawsuits.”

This is not the first time Wolpoff & Abramson has been sued. A computer search and cursory review of those lawsuits suggests that those actions have been less than successful. This does appear to be the first time, however, that an attempt has been made to eradicate the distinction between client and attorney. It will be interesting to see whether discovery turns up any evidence to support the plaintiffs’ bold claim.