January 8, 2019 — Amicus Brief

The key question presented in this case is whether the discovery rule applies to toll the Fair Debt Collection Act’s (“FDCPA”) one-year statute of limitations. NCLC filed its own amicus brief in which we argued that debt collection, which affects millions of Americans each year, often is accompanied by deceptive or unfair practices, particularly by the third-party debt collectors that are subject to the FDCPA. We contended that the FDCPA was intended to curb such abuse, but that such a purpose would be impaired if consumers were not given a fair opportunity to pursue violations that go undetected when they occur. Therefore, we supported the proposition that the one-year statute of limitations should not be construed as an absolute bar to claims that are brought beyond a year from the date of the violation.

In an 8-1 opinion authored by Justice Thomas, the Supreme Court ruled that, absent the application of an equitable doctrine, the statute of limitations in the FDCPA begins to run on the date on which the alleged violation occurs, not the date on which the violation is discovered. The Court recognized, however, the existence of a fraud-based discovery rule, although it found that Rotkiske failed to properly make that fraud argument on appeal (contrary to the dissent filed by Justice Ginsberg). We are disappointed that the discovery rule clearly will not apply in FDCPA cases as we argued, but we were pleased that the Court did not change any of its jurisprudence regarding the availability of equitable tolling of the applicable statute of limitations under appropriate circumstances.