August 15, 2014 4th Circuit published opinions

Russell v Absolute Collection Services, Inc. 

Absolute appealed the judgment against it for violating the Fair Debt Collection Act, 15 USC 1692e, and state law based on collection letters to Russell after Russell paid the debt involved. The panel affirmed. It held Russell was not required to contest the validity of the debt under 1692g in order to sue under 1692e as the text of 1692e does not contain that requirement, it would inconsistent with the pro-consumer purpose of the act and would shield violators of 1692e when validity is not in dispute. The panel applied the least sophisticated consumer test and held the collection letters which demanded payment and threatened to report Russell as delinquent in payment violated 1692e as a mater of law. It finally held that the district court properly barred new evidence of good faith by Absolute as it was disclosed 20 months into the litigation, changed the factual basis for the defense and prejudiced Russell.

Wood v Crane Co. 

Wood sued Crane in sate court alleging damages from asbestos in two types of ship parts. Crane removed the case to federal court base don a federal defense as to one type of part. Woods disclaimed any damages from that type of part and the case was remanded to state court. The panel affirmed. It held that the court had jurisdiction under the federal removal statute as the statute applies to cases not claims. It held that the law of the 4th Circuit allows remand of cases when the basis for federal jurisdiction is eliminated which is what occurred here. Artful pleading cannot eliminate jurisdiction, but, when Wood disclaimed damages there was no federal question involved. Crane was also unable to allege a different basis for federal jurisdiction as the removal statute has a thirty day widow to raise all grounds for jurisdiction and failure to raise a ground in this time period waives the right.

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