Court Compels Debt Collector to Create Computer Program to Generate Class Data

18 Sep 2017

Can I file a class-action against a debt collector?In Meredith v. United Collection Bureau, Inc., Plaintiff filed a class-action lawsuit against United Collection Bureau, alleging it had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)  The TCPA prohibits using artificial recordings or automated dialers to call mobile phones. Plaintiff argued that Defendant made multiple automated calls to her mobile phone to collect debts and had left several prerecorded messages. Plaintiff argued Defendant should have known that she did not consent to receive these calls. Plaintiff also asserted that Defendant’s use of third-party information to conduct autodialed calls would result in Defendant making numerous calls to the wrong numbers.

The Court had earlier denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel for the Defendant’s data on wrong number dials. Defendant had previously argued that the motion was burdensome because it would be required to manually review 278,000 accounts to respond to the request. After Plaintiff deposed Defendant’s Chief Technology Officer, who testified that it was possible to use a computer program to identify wrong number recipients among the 278,000 accounts, the Court reconsidered the motion to compel.

In response, Defendant filed a motion for protective order, arguing that creating a program to identify those numbers would be outside of the usual course of business. Defendant also argued that writing and testing the program would take days, which could limit its ability to conduct operations during normal business hours. Plaintiff argued that, under the Federal Civil Rules of Procedure, a Defendant may be required to create a program to extract data relevant to the class.

The Court denied Defendant’s motion for a protective order, holding that Plaintiff showed that the discovery she is seeking is relevant to the class and necessary to her claim and concluding that while there will be a burden for Defendant, the burden does not outweigh the possible benefits of production. Accordingly, the Court granted the motion to compel, requiring Defendant to develop the program necessary for discovery or to turn over the relevant portion of its database to Plaintiff so that her expert could write the program.