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Suit Against Collections Law Firm Wins Certification as Class Action

New Jersey Law Journal

A deceptive-practices lawsuit against Pressler & Pressler, New Jersey’s largest collections firm, can proceed as a class action.

U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden in Newark on Friday certified a class of individuals who allege misrepresentations in a form letter they received from the Parsippany firm.

Pressler has stipulated that the class in Williams v. Pressler & Pressler has 75 members.

Named plaintiffs Natalie Williams and Alan Setneska claim violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act’s prohibition against false and misleading statements in collecting a debt.

Each was sued for credit-card debt by New Century Financial Services of Whippany, which buys up delinquent accounts. Both filed pro se answers. Williams won dismissal with prejudice while Setneska was hit with a judgment.

The form letter in question, sent after an answer had been filed, offered to settle and said once that was done, proof that the debt was paid would be sent to the court and “to you so that you can advise the credit bureau.”

Class counsel Philip Stern says when he filed the complaint he believed that New Century did not generally report to credit bureaus.

Through depositions of New Century and Pressler, he learned that it does in some instances but not where a debtor disputes the debt or files an answer, as Williams and Setneska had done.

Thus, he sees two misrepresentations: the letter’s implication that the recipient’s credit report contained something about the case or claim and that settling would help improve those reports.

Stern, a Maplewood solo, says there was also deposition testimony that the letter was sent only to pro se debtors and that Pressler could not explain why.