A Recent Federal Court Case with J.C. Christensen & Associates, Inc.

A debt collection agency, J.C. Christensen & Associates, Inc., assists health care providers in obtaining payment from individuals, third party payers, Medicaid/Medicare agencies, and private insurance companies. Recently, the Minnesota-based J.C. Christensen & Associates played an important part in establishing federal case law.

Decided on May 2, 2012, the matter of Zortman v. J.C. Christensen & Associates, Inc., was argued in front of the District Court of Minnesota. It involved a “Catch 22” in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The suit originated when the company called the plaintiff, reached her voice mail, and left the message “We have an important message from J.C. Christensen & Associates. This is a call from a debt collector. Please call 866-319-8619.” Ms. Zortman’s children heard the voicemail, and she filed a suit against the agency.

The issue revolved around two segments of the law. One section forbids debt collectors from making communications about the situation to anyone other than the debtor. Another area forbids debt collectors from not revealing themselves in communications. Many debt collection agencies have been unable to determine how to react when they reach a voicemail.

The court resolved the issue by granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. As the message did not contain sensitive information, the judge ruled that it did not meet the definition of “communication” under federal law. However, other jurisdictions have developed their own case laws regarding this issue, so agencies should research what precedents their local courts follow before proceeding.

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