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What is the Statute of Limitations Period for a Chapter 93A Claim for Debt Collection Efforts?

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In Aja v. Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc. (Memo and Order, November 25, 2020), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts allowed Select Portfolio Servicing, Inc.’s and Wells Fargo Bank’s (“Defendants”) motion to dismiss the amended complaint because Plaintiff failed to state a claim.

Plaintiff initiated her lawsuit on November 14, 2019. Plaintiff’s amended complaint against Defendants alleged “(1) unfair and deceptive acts and practices in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A (‘chapter 93A’) [the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act]; (2) unfair debt collection practices in violation of ch. 93, § 49; and (3) laches.”

The Court determined that the statute of limitations period for Plaintiff’s Chapter 93A claim had run. It explained that Chapter 93A claims “are subject to a four-year statute of limitations,” citing M.G.L. ch. 260, § 5A. In her amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that her injury began on December 13, 2006, which is when she signed a mortgage that she alleged, in this suit, was by unlawful. She argued that new statute of limitations periods were initiated by each of Defendants’ efforts to collect on her mortgage debt. The Court rejected this argument and determined that the statute of limitations for Plaintiff’s Chapter 93A expired December 13, 2010. It cited the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s decision O’Brien v. Deutsche Bank Nat’l Tr. Co. (2020), which it explained held that “the defendant’s collection attempts did not cause the kind of ”identifiable harm’ separate from that caused by the underlying unfair loan’ required to give rise to a new claim.” The Plaintiff tried to distinguish her circumstances from the O’Brien decision to no avail. She also tried to argue during oral argument that Defendants’ refusal of her loan modification application constituted a Chapter 93A claim, but the Court did not agree.

The Court also determined that the statute of limitation period for Plaintiff’s claim of unfair debt collection practices had run, and that her laches claim was precluded by M.G.L. ch. 260, § 33 (“Obsolete mortgages”).

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