No ifs, ands or Fs about it: F-word ruled legal in court battle
Miami lawyer successfully argues that the popular F-word, when used by a debt collector, is legal
However, the naughty word can’t be used in a threatening or a harassing manner
A three-panel judge appellate court ruled in favor of a debt collector who used the “F-word” in trying to collect from a client. Ronna Gradus Miami Herald file
BY HOWARD COHEN
A roofer who told his client, “Don’t be a f—–g schlub, pay your f—–g bill,” did not violate the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, a Miami-Dade circuit appellate panel decided.
The statute reads: “No person shall use profane, obscene, vulgar, or willfully abusive language in communicating with the debtor or any member of her or his family.”
On Dec. 9, a panel of three Miami-Dade Circuit judges denied consumer protection attorney Rami Shmuely’s appeal of a Miami-Dade County Court decision in April. Shmuely sued roofer Salomon Susi and his company for using the F-word.
Not nice, but legal, explains the roofer’s attorney, Richard Wolfe of Wolfe Law Miami.
IMAGINE HOW FUN IT WAS TO ARGUE IN FRONT OF FIVE JUDGES
Miami attorney Richard Wolfe, on defending his client’s use of the ‘F-word” in court this year.
“I argued that the F-word is the most unique word in the English language,” said Wolfe. “It can be used as an adjective, a pronoun, a verb or what I consider, an intensifier. You can ‘pay the bill’ or ‘you can pay the f—–g bill.’ All you are doing is slamming your fist down in describing the bill with a little more intensity.”
What it is not, Wolfe, successfully argued, is obscene. “One man’s obscenity is another man’s lyric.”
He added: “There’s never been a case anywhere in the country where a debt collector was successfully sued for language alone.” One exception: a debt collector called a woman’s coworker and told her to tell the other woman to “pay the f—–g bill.” Harassment or threats can violate the law.
“That is what the statute is meant to curb,” Wolfe explained.
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