In Sayyed v. Wolpoff & Abramson, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Wilkinson, joined by Chief Judge Wilkins and Judge Motz, reversed the order of the district court granting the defendant law firm's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Court ruled that the District Court erred in applying common law immunities as a defense to the federal act, holding that instead the Act defines what are the violations and defenses to liability.
The Court concluded:
"Ultimately, W&A's specific arguments are manifestations of the same general claim: that it simply cannot be the case that the FDCPA covers litigation, the entire purpose of which is to arrive at the truth through the clash of the adversarial process. This argument may have some intuitive appeal, but the fact that an interpretation may seem appealing does not mean that it is correct. While the district court stated, 'I cannot see how commercial litigation could proceed' if the statements at issue in this case were subject to the FDCPA, the FDCPA does not apply to commercial litigation: it covers debt collection where 'debt' is defined as an obligation of a 'consumer,' defined as a 'natural person,' for 'personal, family, or household purposes.' 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(3), (5). And, in any event, '[i]n the ordinary case, absent any indication that doing so would frustrate Congress's clear intention or yield patent absurdity, our obligation is to apply the statute as Congress wrote it.' Hubbard v. United States, 514 U.S. 695, 703 (1995) (internal quotation marks omitted). Operating from 'the understanding that Congress says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there,' Hartford Underwriters Ins. Co. v. Union Planters Bank, N.A., 530 U.S. 1, 6 (2000), we reverse the district court’s dismissal of the action."