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Md. appellate court remands unlicensed debt collector case

Judge Daniel A. Friedman wrote the opinion on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

Judge Daniel A. Friedman wrote the opinion on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

A request for declaration that a judgment is void because the debt collector was unlicensed at the time is not barred by the statute of limitations, but ancillary relief requested by the debtor may be, the Court of Special Appeals held last week.

The decision is the latest in a string of cases related to remedies for debtors in the aftermath of the Finch v. LVNV Funding decision. In Finchthe court held that judgments obtained by unlicensed debt buyers while they were unlicensed are void and subsequent cases have developed rules for debtors seeking relief.

Cassandra Murray brought suit against Midland Funding LLC on behalf of a proposed class of similarly-situated consumers and sought to recover the money she paid Midland as well as equitable relief, according to the reported opinion, filed Thursday. The monetary damages claims were dismissed by the time the case reached the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court and only non-monetary counts remained.

The court dismissed the remaining counts seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in November 2015 after determining they were barred by the three-year statute of limitations, but in April 2016, the Court of Special Appeals ruled in a similar case that claims for declaratory relief can be made at any time. The court has also previously held that requests for injunctive relief are subject to laches.

Because the lower court did not have the benefit of the appellate opinion when it dismissed Murray’s case, the judgment of the lower court was vacated and the case remanded, but with some cautionary words for the future of the litigation.

Midland has completed collection on its judgment against Murray, according to the opinion, so her requested injunction against Midland from collecting upon the void judgments is likely moot as to her and she “may also have difficulty demonstrating that she has standing to assert the claim for injunction on behalf of those who do,” according to Judge Daniel A. Friedman, who wrote the opinion on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel.

Midland will also be able to argue on remand that Murray inexcusably delayed in bringing the claim and that laches bars it, and while there is no time bar to her request that the judgment be declared void, a request for “ancillary relief” may be barred depending on the type of remedy sought.

If Murray’s declaratory judgment action seeks only a declaration the judgment is void and proves that, she is entitled to it — but if it seeks anything beyond a simple declaration, it will be subject to either the statute of limitations or laches.

Murray is represented by Scott C. Borison of the Legg Law firm LLC in Frederick. Borison could not be reached for comment Monday.

Midland is represented by James P. Ulwick of Kramon & Graham P.A. in Baltimore. Ulwich was unavailable for comment Monday and a spokesperson for Midland did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is Cassandra Murray v. Midland Funding LLC, No. 2280, Sept. 2015.

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