March 30, 2017
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District
of New Jersey (D.C. Civil Action No. 3-15-cv-01566) District
Judge: Honorable Brian R. Martinotti
D. STERN, ESQ. [ARGUED] ANDREW T. THOMASSON, ESQ. Stern
Thomasson Counsel for Appellant Andrew Panico
N. ANTHONY, ESQ. [ARGUED] STEPHEN C. PIEPGRASS, ESQ.,
Troutman Sanders AMANDA L. GENOVESE, ESQ., Troutman Sanders
CINDY D. HANSON, ESQ., Troutman Sanders Counsel for Appellees
Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC
VANASKIE, KRAUSE, and RESTREPO, Circuit Judges
RESTREPO, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
putative class action, Plaintiff-Appellant Andrew Panico, who
resides outside of the state of Delaware but signed a
contract with a choice-of-law provision specifying
application of Delaware state law, asserts that
Defendant-Appellee Portfolio Recovery Associates
("PRA") violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices
Act ("FDCPA") and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act
("NJCFA") by suing to collect debts after the
applicable Delaware statute of limitations had run. The
District Court granted Defendant's motion for summary
judgment, after finding that a Delaware tolling statute
served to prevent the Delaware statute of limitations from
running as to a party residing outside the state of Delaware
through the pendency of the credit relationship, default,
collections attempts, and ensuing litigation. For the reasons
that follow, we will reverse the District Court's grant
of summary judgment and remand the case for further
is a resident of the state of New Jersey, who, by early 2010,
allegedly incurred substantial debt on a credit card account
with MBNA America Bank ("MBNA"). As it arose from
spending for personal or household purposes, Panico's
obligation qualifies as "debt" under 15 U.S.C.
§ 1692a(5) of the FDCPA. On June 18, 2010, MBNA regarded
Panico as delinquent on his then-outstanding balance. MBNA
assigned the rights to the debt to Appellee PRA, a debt
collector. Although PRA engaged in attempts to collect the
debt, it did not succeed.
October 20, 2014-more than three but fewer than six years
after the cause of action for debt collection accrued- PRA
sued Panico in New Jersey Superior Court to recover the
balance. New Jersey's relevant statute of limitations
barred collection of such debts after six years;
Delaware's statute of limitations, by contrast,
proscribed collection of such debts after only three years.
The credit agreement governing the relationship between
Panico and MBNA provided for application of "the laws of
the State of Delaware, without regard to its conflict of laws
principles, and by any applicable federal laws." App.
54. Panico moved for summary judgment, on the ground that the
collections action was time-barred. Rather than litigate the
issue of whether Delaware's tolling statute applied to
stop the state's three year statute of limitations from
running as to defendants residing outside the state, PRA
agreed to a stipulated dismissal.
March 2015, Panico filed this putative class action in the
District Court for the District of New Jersey. The class
action alleged violations of the FDCPA and the NJCFA, on the
grounds that PRA had sought to collect on a time-barred debt.
PRA moved for summary judgment on the basis that the debt it
had sought to collect was not time-barred. That motion
presented squarely the issue of whether the Delaware tolling
statute would apply to abrogate the statute of limitations
that would otherwise have barred the collection of the
underlying debt. The parties agreed to address that issue
before addressing class certification, and ultimately, the
District Court granted PRA's motion for summary judgment
on September 14, 2016. Panico timely appealed.
District Court had jurisdiction under 15 U.S.C. §
1692k(d)-the relevant section of the FDCPA-and 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331. We have jurisdiction over an appeal from a final
decision of a District Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Our
review of a District Court's grant of summary judgment is
plenary. NAACP v. City of Philadelphia, 834 F.3d
435, 440 (3d Cir. 2016). Summary judgment is appropriate when
"the movant shows that there is no ...