The U.S. Supreme Court held today that "mistakes of law" by debt collectors don't count as "bona fide errors" under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Justice Sotomayor wrote the Court's opinion; Justice Scalia concurred in part and in the judgment; and Justice Kennedy (with Justice Alito) filed a dissent. Jerman v. Carlisle, McNellie, Rini, Kramer & Ulrich, LPA, No. 08-1200 (U.S. Apr. 21, 2010).
The case involved a claim that a law firm and one of its lawyers violated the FDCPA by telling a home mortgage debtor, Karen L. Jerman, that they would assume she owed the debt unless she disputed it in writing. But the law doesn't allow debt collectors to require debtors to dispute the debt in writing or to assume the debtor owed the debt. Ms. Jerman in fact had paid off the mortgage. The Court deemed the law firm's and lawyers' mistake one of law and therefore not an unintentional bona fide error.