The opinion of the court was delivered by: GRADY
Before the court is defendant Lason Services, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in this opinion, the defendant's motion is granted.
The plaintiffs are a group of debtors
who allege that the various defendants engaged in a "phony attorney letter scheme" and violated various provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). 15 U.S.C. 1692, et. seq. The plaintiffs received a "Priority Gram" letter requesting partial payment to settle a debt owed to A.S.B. Living Well/Paramount Acceptance, a company that sells health club memberships.
The debt collection letter was ostensibly sent from defendant Alan Slodki, who is an attorney practicing in Illinois. Slodki's full name, the name of his law firm, his phone number, and his office address appeared on the letter; no other debt collector was mentioned. The letter bore no handwritten signature. Despite the appearance that Attorney Slodki was involved in collecting the debt, the plaintiffs assert that he did not review the debtors' files, advise the creditor how to proceed, or even mail out the letters bearing his name. Rather, his involvement was limited to one act: he authorized defendant Arrow Services Bureau, Inc. ("Arrow") to use his name in their debt collection efforts.
Arrow is a debt collection agency acting on behalf of A.S.B. Living Well. Arrow hired defendant Lason Services, Inc. ("Lason") to aid in the dissemination of letters to the debtors. Lason's activities included, among other things, storing Arrow's debt collection letters on computers, merging the letters with Arrow's mailing lists, printing the letters, and mailing them to the debtors. Plaintiffs allege that Lason further aided Arrow by writing and formatting the letter at issue. Lason denies this allegation.
The plaintiffs have asserted that Lason's activities constitute a violation of § 1692j of the FDCPA. In the alternative, they allege that Lason is a "debt collector" within the meaning of the FDCPA and is therefore liable under §§ 1692e, 1692e(3), 1692e(5), 1692e(10), and 1692(f). The plaintiffs also charge various state law violations. Lason has moved for summary judgment on all of these claims.
Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In considering such a motion, the court must view all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Plair v. E.J. Brach & Sons, Inc., 105 F.3d 343, 346 (7th Cir. 1997). "A dispute over material facts is genuine if the 'evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Kennedy v. Children's Serv. Soc'y of Wis., 17 F.3d 980, 983 (7th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986)). The court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not "come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [plaintiff's] favor on a material question." McGrath v. Gillis, 44 F.3d 567, 569 (7th Cir. 1995).
Once the moving party has supported its motion for summary judgment, the "adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Any fact asserted in the movant's affidavit will be accepted by the court as true unless the adverse party submits its own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertion. Curtis v. Bembenek, 48 F.3d 281, 287 (7th Cir. 1995). If the adverse party does not respond with evidence complying with Rule 56, "summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).
The plaintiffs have asserted that Lason's activities in connection with the letters are sufficient to constitute a violation of § 1692j(a) of the FDCPA. The language of that section reads as follows:
It is unlawful to design, compile, and furnish any form knowing that such form would be used to create the false belief in a consumer that a person other than the creditor of such consumer is participating in the collection of or in an attempt to collect a debt such consumer allegedly owes such creditor, when in fact such person is not so participating.
15 U.S.C.A. § 1692j (a) (West, 1997).
Lason moves for summary judgment, asserting that its actions are insufficient to constitute "designing, compiling, and furnishing a form" under § 1692j because it did not compose the letter at issue.
In response, the plaintiffs argue that Lason's business practice is to write the text of the letters it mails and that Lason did in fact write this particular letter. Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that even if Lason did not write the letter, its mass ...