December 10, 2013
EMMANUEL D. ODI, Plaintiff-Appellant,
SUNRISE CREDIT SERVICE, Defendant-Respondent.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 20, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Essex County, Docket No. SC-0095-12.
Emmanuel D. Odi, appellant pro se.
The Salvo Law Firm, PC, attorneys for respondent (Cindy D. Salvo, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Simonelli and Fasciale.
Plaintiff appeals from a January 31, 2012 order entered after a bench trial dismissing his complaint against defendant alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1692 to -1692p, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1681 to -1681x,  and defamation. We affirm.
Defendant is in the business of collecting debts. T-Mobile retained defendant to collect a debt owed by plaintiff. Defendant notified plaintiff in writing of the amount of the debt and that if he failed to dispute the validity of the debt within thirty days, then defendant would assume the debt was valid. Plaintiff failed to respond timely to that notice.
Judge Ned Rosenberg tried the case, listened to the testimony from plaintiff, and issued an oral opinion. The judge found that plaintiff failed to respond timely to defendant's notice. The judge stated that even if plaintiff did respond timely, which was not the case, plaintiff was unable to prove damages. The judge entered a judgment in favor of defendant and dismissed the complaint with prejudice.
On appeal, plaintiff argues primarily that the judge erred by finding that plaintiff did not respond timely to defendant's notice and failed to prove damages. After a thorough review of the record and consideration of the controlling legal principles, we conclude that plaintiff's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Rosenberg and add the following brief comments.
For the first time on appeal, plaintiff claims that he disputed the debt and requested validation in a letter dated August 26, 2011. We question the authenticity of the letter, which plaintiff did not produce to the judge. Nevertheless, we decline to find that plaintiff sent this letter to defendant, as this factual issue was not presented to the trial court. See Selective Ins. Co. of Am. v. Rothman, 208 N.J. 580, 586 (2012).
Plaintiff provided the front page of defendant's written notification of debt, which states "PLEASE REFER TO REVERSE SIDE FOR IMPORTANT INFORMATION." Although plaintiff argues that the written notice from defendant "lacked the [thirty]-day validation notice as required by the [FDCPA], " the reverse side of the written notice, which defendant supplied, states:
UNLESS YOU NOTIFY THIS OFFICE WITHIN [THIRTY] DAYS AFTER RECEIVING THIS NOTICE THAT YOU DISPUTE THE VALIDITY OF THIS DEBT OR ANY PORTION THEREOF, THIS OFFICE WILL ASSUME THIS DEBT IS VALID. IF YOU NOTIFY THIS OFFICE IN WRITING WITHIN [THIRTY] DAYS FROM RECEIVING THIS NOTICE, THIS OFFICE WILL OBTAIN VERIFICATION OF THE DEBT OR OBTAIN A COPY OF A JUDGMENT AND MAIL YOU A COPY OF SUCH JUDGMENT OR VERIFICATION. IF YOU REQUEST THIS OFFICE IN WRITING WITHIN [THIRTY] DAYS AFTER RECEIVING THIS NOTICE, THIS OFFICE WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH THE NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR, IF DIFFERENT FROM THE CURRENT CREDITOR.
A trial court's factual findings "are considered binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial and credible evidence." Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974). We have no reason to disturb Judge Rosenberg's findings of fact.