United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 3, 2005.
DEBRA FRANCIS, Plaintiff,
TIMOTHY SNYDER, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN GRADY, District Judge
Before the court is defendant's motion to alter or amend the
judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). For the reasons
stated below, the motion is denied.
On September 30, 2005, we entered summary judgment in plaintiff
Debra Francis's favor on her claim that a collection letter she
received from defendant Timothy Snyder violated the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq. See
Francis v. Snyder, 389 F.Supp.2d 1034 (N.D. Ill. 2005). We held
that the letter contravened the Act in two ways: (i) its
statutorily-required notice granting Francis 30 days to dispute
the alleged debt was "overshadowed" by other language in
violation of § 1692g, and (ii) it threatened a lawsuit that was
legally baseless in violation of § 1692e(5).
Snyder has filed a motion seeking reconsideration of our judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).*fn1 Motions to
reconsider brought under Rule 59(e) serve the limited function of
correcting manifest errors of law, presenting newly discovered
evidence, or alerting the court to an intervening change in the
law. See Cosgrove v. Bartolotta, 150 F.3d 729, 732 (7th Cir.
1998). The Rule "is not appropriately used to advance arguments
or theories that could and should have been made before the
district court rendered a judgment," LB Credit Corp. v.
Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263, 1267 (7th Cir. 1995), or
to "rehash" previously raised arguments. Rosby Corp. v.
Stoughton Trailers, Inc., 2004 WL 1462244, at *3 (N.D. Ill. June
28, 2004). At a status hearing on October 12, 2005, we granted
Snyder's request for additional time, until October 19, to
supplement his motion. We have not received any additional
submissions, so we will rule on the motion papers that have been
Snyder argues that in granting summary judgment for Francis on
the "threat of litigation" claim, the court erred by
"definitively rul[ing] on an open question of State Law."
(Def.'s Mot., p. 1.) We held that the letter's warning that "a
bad check can be considered a violation of Illinois Statutes!"
was an untenable threat of litigation because the statute that
Snyder claimed the letter referred to, 810 ILCS § 5/3-806, did not apply
to Francis. Snyder's argument appears to be (it is all of one
sentence) that it was improper for a federal court to rule on
the scope of a state statute. This could not be more wrong.
Federal courts are required to interpret and apply state law on
substantive matters that are neither constitutional in nature nor
involve federal laws, see Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins,
304 U.S. 64, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938), and this principle
applies to diversity and non-diversity cases alike. See
Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Estate of Bosch,
387 U.S. 456, 465, 87 S.Ct. 1776, 18 L.Ed.2d 886 (1967) (discussing the
applicability of Erie to federal question cases considering
state law issues); FDIC v. Wabick, 335 F.3d 620, 625 (7th Cir.
2003) ("[G]enerally speaking, the Erie doctrine applies to
non-diversity cases where state law supplies the rule of
decision."). Our evaluation of Francis's claim that the letter
contained a groundless threat of litigation required us to
interpret the Illinois statute, and it was not error to do so.
Snyder's remaining allegations of error are simply restatements
of arguments presented during the summary judgment proceedings.
We carefully considered them then and will not revisit them here.
Snyder's motion to reconsider is denied.
We had set the October 12 status hearing to discuss the issue
of damages and now that we have denied Snyder's motion to
reconsider, we can proceed. At the status, Francis's counsel informed the court of her intention to seek statutory damages as
well as costs and attorney's fees under 15 U.S.C. § 1692k.
Francis may have until November 10, 2005 to file a motion
regarding statutory damages under § 1692k and Snyder may have
until November 17 to respond. The briefs are not to exceed five
pages (one or two would be sufficient), and no reply will be
needed. Francis is also entitled to reasonable costs and
attorney's fees pursuant to § 1692k(a)(3). To assist the court in
determining the proper amount of costs and fees to be awarded,
the parties are directed to follow the procedures outlined in
Local Rule 54.3, and if they are unable to reach agreement, shall
submit the joint statement and fee motion called for by Rule
54.3(e) and (f) no later than December 5, 2005.
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