DNF Associates is a debt collection company that makes its profits by buying defaulted consumer debts from creditors and then hiring third-party contractors to contact consumers to collect those debts. DNF bought a disputed debt purportedly owed by Stephanie Reygadas and sued her over that debt in Arkansas state court. Ms. Reygadas hired a lawyer, who successfully got that case dismissed. DNF then hired another company, Radius Global Solutions, to contact Ms. Reygadas in an attempt to collect on the same disputed debt. Although DNF gave Radius Ms. Reygadas’s contact information, it did not inform Radius that Ms. Reygadas was represented by a lawyer. Radius contacted Ms. Reygadas directly. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Arkansas Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, however, both prohibit debt collectors from contacting consumers represented by counsel.
Ms. Reygadas sued DNF under both statutes, and the district court ruled in her favor. DNF appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, arguing that the statutory definition of “debt collector” applies only to entities that directly interact with consumers and that it cannot be held liable for Radius’s contact with Ms. Reygadas. Public Citizen represents Ms. Reygadas in that appeal, arguing that the statutory definition of businesses with a “principal purpose” of “the collection of any debts” applies to DNF and companies like it. Further, principles of agency law provide for liability where a principal, like DNF, hires an agent, like Radius, to engage in conduct that the principal itself would be prohibited from doing.