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Consumer Protection Law firm’s attempt to collect debts did not violate FDCPA

Where a law firm representing a homeowners association attempted to collect outstanding debts from homeowners by filing a writ of garnishment and lien that included post-judgment enforcement costs, it did not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.


Homeowners Suzette Archie and Om Sharma commenced this suit in response to attempts by Nagle & Zaller PC, a law firm representing their homeowners associations, to collect outstanding debts. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of N&Z on the FDCPA claims and exercised its discretion to dismiss the remaining state law claims without prejudice.

FDCPA claims

The district court first considered whether N&Z’s inclusion of post-judgment enforcement costs in writs of garnishment violates the FDCPA. N&Z’s attempt to collect against Archie exemplifies this challenged practice. The Holly Hill homeowners association, represented by N&Z, obtained a consent judgment against Archie based on her failure to pay monthly condominium assessments. That judgment included $14,938.10 in judgment principal, plus $83 in costs, among other amounts.

N&Z subsequently took a number of steps to collect on the judgment: First, a judgment lien was recorded, which cost $15. When Archie made no payment on the judgment, N&Z filed a request for an order directing her to appear for examination in aid of enforcement of judgment, which cost $10. N&Z then filed a request for a writ of garnishment of Archie’s wages, which cost another $10. All told, the writ of garnishment sought $118 in costs, which included the $83 that was initially awarded plus $15 for the judgment lien, $10 for the request for examination in aid of enforcement and $10 for the request for the writ itself.

The homeowners do not dispute that N&Z in fact incurred those post-judgment costs, nor that the cost schedule of the Maryland court system specifically allows them. According to their complaint, however, by seeking any amount over the $83 in costs initially awarded as part of the judgment against Archie, N&Z attempted to “collect[] costs in an amount greater than the costs actually assessed in the case[]” – in other words, falsely represented the amount due in violation of the FDCPA. The district court disagreed.

Next, the district court turned to the homeowners’ claim that “continuing lien clauses,” which state that the lien covers additional costs that may come due after the lien is recorded, violate the FDCPA. Here, N&Z’s attempt to collect against Sharma is illustrative. The Gabriel’s Run homeowners association, which was represented by N&Z, filed a statement of lien against Sharma’s property, claiming the right to collect $3,099.80 as well as “additional fines, late fees, interest, costs of collection and attorney’s fees actually incurred, if any, as permitted by the Association’s governing documents, that may come due after the date this lien was drafted.” The lien went on to note that “[s]aid amount may increase or decrease to account for intervening payments of some or all of the balance secured by this Statement of Lien, or due to judgments obtained against [Sharma].”

Separately, N&Z filed two statements of lien against Archie’s property, each of which included continuing lien clauses identical to the one in the Sharma lien. On plaintiffs’ telling, those continuing lien clauses constitute “false, deceptive or misleading representations” within the meaning of the FDCPA because they are “not authorized under Maryland law” and “demand[] future, unknown sums due.” Again, the district court rejected the plaintiffs’ position.

Having carefully considered the controlling law and the parties’ briefs and oral arguments, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to the FDCPA claims for the reasons given by the district court.

State law claims

That leaves the issue of whether the district court’s dismissal of the remaining state law claims without prejudice constituted an abuse of discretion. There is no indication that the district court abused its discretion here: Nothing in the language of § 1367, nor in any case law interpreting that provision, imposes a requirement that the district court remand, as opposed to dismiss, pendant state law claims.


Archie v. Nagle & Zaller PC (Per curiam) Case No. 18-1979. Oct. 16, 2019. From D. Md. (George J. Hazel, J.) Phillip R. Robinson for Appellants, Stacey Ann Moffet for Appellee. 7 pp.

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