No ifs, ands or Fs about it: F-word ruled legal in court battle

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.

“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.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen