No More Circuit Split: Third Circuit Finds No Written Requirement in 1692g(a)(3), Overturns Graziano

Here's some positive news amid what has undoubtedly been a long and difficult couple of weeks for everyone. Laying to bed a long headache to debt collectors and their legal counsel, the Third Circuit issued an en banc decision in Riccio v. Sentry Credit that overturns Graziano and finds that there is no written dispute requirement in section 1692g(a)(3) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Over the past two or so years, plaintiffs and their counsel within the Third Circuit's jurisdiction brought high volumes of litigation arguing that a validation notice that tracks the statutory language of 1692g violates the FDCPA. The era of the written dispute requirement claim is now over—the decision also applies the ruling retroactively to any claim still open on the issue.

In its decision, the court observes that the current environment supports overturning Graziano. United States Supreme Court precedent since the Graziano decision—decided in 1991—has consistently taken a strict "plain meaning" statutory interpretation approach, including with FDCPA cases. The plain language of the FDCPA clearly foregoes the term "written" in section 1692g(a)(3), but contains the term in other sections. Accordingly, the court concludes that Congress meant what it said.

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