Ybarra v. Greenberg & Sada, P.C.

Francis Ybarra filed suit against the law firm of Greenberg & Sada, alleging that it violated the Colorado Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by obtaining a judgment against her in the Denver County Court on behalf of State Farm Auto Insurance Company. While represented by Greenberg & Sada, State Farm, as the subrogee of an insured to whom it had paid a claim for damages caused by Ybarra, had taken a default judgment against Ybarra. In her complaint, Ybarra alleged particularly that in doing so Greenberg & Sada violated the Act in a number of ways, including by filing State Farm’s negligence action in Denver rather than Jefferson County, where Ybarra is a resident; by using a false representation or deceptive means in attempting to collect a debt by filing for damages in tort; by providing an address for Ybarra’s residence, where it knew or should have known she did not reside; by making false representations of the character, amount, or legal status of the “debt” by alleging that she owned the car she was driving, which she denied; and by failing to comply with the Act in various other ways. The district court granted Greenberg & Sada’s motion to dismiss, finding that the subrogated tort claim upon which State Farm took a default judgment against Ybarra was not a debt as defined by the Act, and therefore the requirements for collection of a debt imposed by the Act did not apply to Greenberg & Sada. Because a tort, as distinguished from a judgment awarding damages for its commission, does not obligate the tortfeasor to pay damages, the Colorado Supreme Court determined it could not be a transaction giving rise to an obligation to pay money, as required in order to constitute a debt within the contemplation of the Act. And because an insurance contract providing for the subrogation of the rights of a damaged insured is not a transaction giving rise to an obligation of the tortfeasor to pay money, but merely changes the person to whom the tortfeasor’s obligation to pay is owed, it also could not constitute a transaction creating debt within the contemplation of the Act. The judgment of the court of appeals was therefore affirmed. View "Ybarra v. Greenberg & Sada, P.C." on Justia Law