Member Alert:  RMAI’s Amicus Brief Argument Supporting the Discovery Rule – Adopted by U.S. Supreme Court Statute of Limitations on FDCPA Claims Begins on Date of Violation

On December 10, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Rotkiske v. Klemm, holding the plain text of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), specifically U.S.C. §1692k(d), unambiguously sets the date of the violation as the event that starts the FDCPA’s one-year limitations period. Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayer, Kagan, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined.[i]

“Absent the application of an equitable doctrine, § 1692k(d)’s statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violation occurs, not when the violation is discovered.” Pp. 4–7.

In the opinion of the Court, the plaintiff’s argument for the application of a general discovery rule as a principle of statutory interpretation would, in effect, have read a discovery provision into §1692k(d) that does not exist. Section 1692k(d) clearly states, the FDCPA authorizes private civil actions against debt collectors who engage in certain prohibited practices. But any such action must be brought “within one year from the date on which the violation occurs.”  15 U. S. C. §1692k(d). The Justices explained Rotkiske’s approach would have required the Court to improperly supplement the text of an already clearly written statute.

“Such supplementation is particularly inappropriate when, as here, Congress has shown that it knows how to adopt the omitted language or provision. See, e.g., 12 U. S. C. §3416.  Pp. 4–6.

In the underlying case, plaintiff Rotkiske argued the statute of limitations on his FDCPA claim should have started on the day he discovered the FDCPA violation. The defendant disagreed arguing the date the alleged violation occurred should be the date which starts the running of the statute of limitations on an FDCPA claim. Both the district court and the Third Circuit Court of appeals ruled in favor of the debt collector holding the discovery rule does not apply to the one-year limitations period under the FDCPA. Rotkiske appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Recognizing the industrywide significance of this case and the potential for a rampant increase in FDCPA claims should the Supreme Court accept the plaintiff’s argument, RMAI filed an Amicus Curia Brief in this matter on July 18, 2019. In its brief, RMAI argued a court cannot choose between the two methods when calculating the statute of limitations on an FDCPA claim. Congress, when enacting the FDCPA, made this choice for the courts by specifically stating the one-year statute of limitations begins on the date the alleged violation occurred. See the full text of the RMAI’s brief here.

RMAI joins the industry at large in applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling on this issue, as it provides clarity on the nature of the statute of limitations under the FDCPA.

[i] Justice Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed an opinion dissenting in part and dissenting from the judgment.

This Alert is intended for Members of RMAI and is for informational purposes only; it is in no way intended to provide legal advice. Members are encouraged to consult with an attorney of their choice for legal advice concerning this matter.