__ U.S. __, 18-328, Rotkiske v. Klemm

Docket Nº:18-328
Citation:__ U.S. __, 140 S.Ct. 355
Opinion Judge:THOMAS, Justice.
Party Name:Kevin C. ROTKISKE, Petitioner v. Paul KLEMM, et al.
Attorney:Scott E. Gant, Washington, DC, for the petitioner Shay Dvoretzky, Washington, DC, for the respondents Jonathan C. Bond for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the respondents. Matthew B. Weisberg, Weisberg Law, Morton, PA, Scott E. Gant, Samuel S. Ungar, ...
Judge Panel:THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part and dissenting from the judgment. Justice SOTOMAYOR, conc...
Case Date:December 10, 2019
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page __

__ U.S. __

140 S.Ct. 355

Kevin C. ROTKISKE, Petitioner

v.

Paul KLEMM, et al.

No. 18-328

United States Supreme Court

December 10, 2019

Argued October 16, 2019

Syllabus

[*]

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) authorizes private civil actions against debt collectors who engage in certain prohibited practices. An FDCPA action must be brought "within one year from the date on which the violation occurs." 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d). Respondent Klemm & Associates (Klemm) sued petitioner Rotkiske to collect an unpaid debt and attempted service at an address where Rotkiske no longer lived. An individual other than Rotkiske accepted service. Rotkiske failed to respond to the summons, and Klemm obtained a default judgment in 2009. Rotkiske claims that he first learned of this judgment in 2014 when his mortgage application was denied. He then filed suit against Klemm, alleging that Klemm violated the FDCPA by contacting him without lawful ability to collect. Klemm moved to dismiss the action as barred by the FDCPA’s one-year statute of limitations. As relevant here, Rotkiske argued for the application of a "discovery rule" to delay the beginning of the limitations period until the date that he knew or should have known of the alleged FDCPA violation. Relying on the statute’s plain language, the District Court rejected Rotkiske’s approach and dismissed the action. The Third Circuit affirmed.

Held : Absent the application of an equitable doctrine, § 1692k(d)’s statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged FDCPA violation occurs, not when the violation is discovered. Pp. 359 - 362.

(a) The plain text of § 1692k(d) unambiguously sets the date of the violation as the event that starts the FDCPA’s one-year limitations period. Rotkiske argues for the application of a general discovery rule as a principle of statutory interpretation that, in effect, would read a discovery provision into § 1692k(d). But adopting this approach would require improper atextual supplementation of the statute. Such supplementation is particularly inappropriate when, as here, Congress has shown that it knows how to adopt the omitted language or provision. See, e.g., 12 U.S.C. § 3416. Pp. 359 - 361.

(b) Rotkiske cannot rely on the application of an equitable, fraud-specific discovery rule to excuse his otherwise untimely filing. This Court has noted the existence of decisions applying a discovery rule in fraud cases, see, e.g., Merck & Co. v. Reynolds, 559 U.S. 633, 644, 130 S.Ct. 1784, 176 L.Ed.2d 582, and has characterized these decisions as applying an equity-based doctrine, see, e.g., [140 S.Ct. 358] California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc., 582 U.S. __, __ - __, 137 S.Ct. 2042, 2051-2053, 198 L.Ed.2d 584. Rotkiske, however, neither preserved this issue before the Third Circuit nor raised it in his petition for certiorari. Pp. 361 - 362.

890 F.3d 422, affirmed.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part and dissenting from the judgment.

[140 S.Ct. 357] Scott E. Gant, Washington, DC, for the petitioner

Shay Dvoretzky, Washington, DC, for the respondents

Jonathan C. Bond for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the respondents.

Matthew B. Weisberg, Weisberg Law, Morton, PA, Scott E. Gant, Samuel S. Ungar, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, Washington, DC, for petitioner.

Amanda K. Rice, Jones Day, Detroit, MI, Shay Dvoretzky, Jeffrey R. Johnson, Jones Day, Washington, DC, for respondent Paul Klemm.

OPINION

THOMAS, Justice.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) authorizes private civil actions against debt collectors who engage in certain prohibited practices. 91 Stat. 881, 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a). An action under the FDCPA may be brought "within one year from the date on which the violation occurs." § 1692k(d). This case requires us to determine when the FDCPA’s limitations period begins to run. We hold that, absent the application of an equitable doctrine, the statute of limitations in § 1692k(d) begins to run on the date on which the alleged FDCPA violation occurs, not the date on which the violation is discovered.

I

A

In 1977, Congress enacted the FDCPA "to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses." § 1692(e). The FDCPA pursues these stated purposes by imposing affirmative requirements on debt collectors and prohibiting a range of debt-collection practices. § § 1692b-1692j.

The FDCPA authorizes the Federal Trade Commission, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, and other federal agencies to enforce its provisions. § 1692l . The FDCPA also authorizes private civil actions against debt collectors. § 1692k(a). These private civil actions "may be brought in any appropriate United States district court without regard to the amount in controversy, or in any other court of competent jurisdiction, within one year from the date on which the violation occurs." § 1692k(d).

B

Petitioner Kevin Rotkiske failed to pay approximately $1,200 in credit card [140 S.Ct. 359] debt.1 His credit card company referred the debt to respondent Klemm & Associates (Klemm) for collection.2 In March 2008, Klemm sued Rotkiske, seeking to collect the unpaid debt. Klemm attempted service at an address where Rotkiske no longer lived, and a person whose description did not match Rotkiske’s accepted service of the complaint. Klemm later withdrew the suit.

Klemm refiled suit in January 2009, and a process server attempted service at the same address. Once again, someone other than Rotkiske accepted service. Rotkiske failed to respond to the summons, and Klemm obtained a default judgment. Rotkiske claims that he was not aware of Klemm’s 2009 debt-collection lawsuit until September 2014, when he was denied a mortgage because of the default judgment against him.

On June 29, 2015, more than six years after the default judgment, Rotkiske brought suit against Klemm under the FDCPA. Rotkiske’s amended complaint alleged that equitable tolling excused his otherwise untimely filing because Klemm purposely served process in a manner that ensured he would not receive service. The sole FDCPA claim in the complaint asserted that Klemm commenced the 2009 debt-collection lawsuit after the state-law limitations period expired and therefore "violated the FDCPA by contacting [Rotkiske] without lawful ability to collect." First Amended Complaint in No. 2:15-cv-03638 (ED Pa.), Doc. 15, p. 4.

Klemm moved to dismiss the action as barred by the FDCPA’s one-year statute of limitations, 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d). Rotkiske argued that the court should apply a "discovery rule" to delay the beginning of the limitations period until the date he knew or should have known of the alleged FDCPA violation. To support this contention, Rotkiske relied on the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Mangum v. Action Collection Serv., Inc., 575 F.3d 935 (2009). That case held that, under the "discovery rule," limitations periods in federal litigation generally begin to run when plaintiffs know or have reason to know of their injury. Id., at 940-941.

The District Court dismissed the action. It held that the Ninth Circuit’s general rule does not apply to § 1692k(d), relying on the statute’s plain language. The court also concluded that Rotkiske was not entitled to equitable tolling because, even accepting the truth of the allegations in the complaint, he was not misled by Klemm’s conduct.

On appeal, the Third Circuit sua sponte reviewed the case en...

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