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Klotz v. Celentano Stadtmauer & Walentowicz LLP

3rd Circuit

March 16, 2021

In Klotz v. Celentano Stadtmauer & Walentowicz LLP, the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court’s order granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. A hospital retained the defendant law firm to collect a debt incurred by the plaintiff’s husband. The husband died before paying the debt and did not leave an estate. After the defendant law firm sent collection letters to the plaintiff, she filed suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692et seq., claiming that she was not liable for the debt because the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691et seq., preempts New Jersey’s common-law doctrine of necessaries (where a spouse is jointly liable for necessary expenses incurred by the other spouse) under a theory of conflict preemption. The District Court disagreed with the plaintiff’s theory. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the ECOA does not preempt state law, and thus the plaintiff was liable for the debt.

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