The US Supreme Court granted certiorari Monday in Rotkiske v. Klemm, a case involving equitable tolling of the statute of limitations under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Kevin Rotkiske incurred credit card debt to Capital One between 2003 and 2005 totaling $1500, which was turned over to Paul Klemm’s law firm for collection. Klemm’s firm attempted service on Rotkiske at a previous known address to a person unknown to Rotkiske and filed suit against him in March 2008. They later withdrew the lawsuit. Klemm’s firm again attempted service on Rotkiske at the same address as before, and someone else who was unknown to him accepted service. Klemm’s firm brought a suit against him in January 2009, winning a default judgment.
Rotkiske claims he was unaware of the judgment against him until September 2014 when he submitted a mortgage application and was denied. Rotkiske’s initial suit against Klemm’s firm in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania >was dismissed in March 2016. In his appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling against him.
Rotkiske’s claim involves equitable tolling, which is a practice that delays the beginning of a limitations period until the plaintiff knew of or should have known of their injury. US District Judge Gene Pratter found that Rotkiske did not meet the requirements, which require, “a plaintiff to prove (1) ‘active misleading’ by the defendant, (2) which prevents the plaintiff from recognizing the validity of their claim within the limitations period, (3) where the plaintiff’s ignorance is not attributable to their lack of reasonable due diligence in attempting to uncover the relevant facts.”
The Third Circuit stated, “We conclude by emphasizing that our holding today does nothing to undermine the doctrine of equitable tolling. Indeed, we have already recognized the availability of equitable tolling for civil suits alleging an FDCPA violation. … We do not reach the question in this case only because Rotkiske failed to raise it on appeal.”