Arapahoe County District Court No. 16CV32132 Honorable John
L. Wheeler, Judge.
Law Office of Gary Merenstein, P.C., Gary Merenstein,
Lafayette, Colorado; Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti, LLP, Alan
C. Friedberg, Boulder, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant
Edmonds & Logue, P.C., Rocky L. Edmonds, Jeffrey M.
Logue, Fort Collins, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee
1 Debt collectors sometimes attempt to collect debts from the
wrong person, debts that a consumer has already paid, and
debts in an amount a consumer does not owe. Among other
things, the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(CFDCPA), sections 5-16-101 to -135, C.R.S. 2018,
gives a consumer rights to require debt collectors to provide
(1) notice of the consumer's right to dispute the debt
and (2) proof of the validation (or verification) of the
debt. With respect to the former right, the supreme court has
determined that the CFDCPA prohibits debt collectors from
providing notices that would be misleading or confusing to
the least sophisticated consumer.
2 Colorado law is largely silent on the attributes of a
"least sophisticated consumer." And it is also
silent on who - judge or jury - determines what such a
consumer would understand. In this opinion, we address those
issues - and others - in reversing the district court's
order granting summary judgment for defendant, Credit Bureau
of Carbon County, d/b/a Collection Center, Inc. (Credit
Bureau), and against plaintiff, Deborah Garrett.
3 Credit Bureau is an agency that collects or attempts to
collect debts owed, due, or asserted to be owed or due to
another. On July 12, 2016, it sent Garrett a collection
notice demanding payment in the amount of $834.96 on a
consumer debt allegedly owed to the University of Colorado
Hospital. On August 1, 2016, Credit Bureau sent Garrett a
second collection notice.
4 Subsequently, Garrett sued Credit Bureau based on the
contents of the two notices. In her amended complaint, she
sought statutory damages, reasonable attorney fees, and costs
because of abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices
prohibited by the CFDCPA.
5 Both parties asserted that there were no disputed material
facts, and both parties filed dispositive motions. In a very
detailed, twenty-seven-page written analysis, the district
court concluded that Credit Bureau's notices had not
violated the CFDCPA. Consequently, the court denied
Garrett's motion for judgment on the pleadings, granted
Credit Bureau's motion for summary judgment, and
dismissed the case.
Credit Bureau's Notices
6 Garrett contends that the district court wrongly concluded
that Credit Bureau did not violate the CFDCPA. We agree.
7 We review de novo the district court's grant of summary
judgment. TCD, Inc. v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co.,
2012 COA 65, ¶ 6. Summary judgment should be granted
only if there is a clear showing that no genuine issue as to
any material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Id.
8 Because we agree with the parties that there is no genuine
issue of material fact, the question in this case is whether
Credit Bureau is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
9 In Flood v. Mercantile Adjustment Bureau, LLC, 176
P.3d 769 (Colo. 2008), the supreme court recognized that the
CFDCPA and its federal counterpart, the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 to 1692p
(2018), "share the remedial purpose of protecting
consumers against debt collection practices that take
advantage of gullible, unwary, trustful, or cowed persons who
receive a debt collection communication." 176 P.3d at
To this end, those statutes require debt collectors or
collection agencies to (1) provide a "debt
validation" notice and (2) refrain from engaging in
certain types of acts. See id. at 774.
10 Regarding the "debt validation" notice, section
5-16-109(1), C.R.S. 2018 requires that a debt collector or
collection agency send a consumer debtor a written notice
disclosing, as pertinent here, the following:
(a) The amount of the debt; . . . .
(c) That, unless the consumer, within thirty days after
receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or
any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by
the debt collector or collection agency;
(d) That, if the consumer notifies the debt collector or
collection agency in writing within the thirty-day period
that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt
collector or collection agency will obtain verification of
the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a
copy of the verification or judgment will be mailed to the
consumer by the debt collector or collection agency . . .
11 As to prohibited activities, the CFDCPA forbids a debt
collector or collection agency from using "any false,
deceptive, or misleading representation" in collecting a
debt. § 5-16-107(1), C.R.S. 2018. In Flood, the
supreme court noted with approval that federal authorities
require that statutorily mandated disclosures
be effectively conveyed in a suitable size that can be
"easily read" and does not contain
The [FDCPA] is not satisfied merely by inclusion of the
required debt validation notice; the notice Congress required
must be conveyed effectively to the debtor. It must be large
enough to be easily read and sufficiently prominent to be
noticed - even by the least sophisticated debtor.
Furthermore, to be effective, the notice must not be
overshadowed or contradicted by other messages or notices
appearing in the initial communication from the collection
Flood, 176 P.3d at 773 (quoting Swanson v. S.
Or. Credit Serv., Inc., 869 F.2d 1222, 1225 (9th ...