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Sickman v. Asset Recovery Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 27, 2015

ROBERT SICKMAN, on behalf of plaintiff and the class members described below, Plaintiff,


ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Sickman filed a one-count first amended putative class action complaint against defendant Asset Recovery Solutions, LLC ("Asset"), alleging a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Defendant has filed a motion to transfer venue from this court to the Western District of Texas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons discussed below, the court grants defendant's motion.


Plaintiff is an individual who resides in San Antonio, Texas. Defendant is a debt collector as defined by the FDCPA, with its principal place of business in Des Plaines, Illinois. Plaintiff alleges that on or about February 7, 2014, defendant mailed him a letter, seeking to collect an alleged debt incurred for personal, family, or household purposes. According to plaintiff, in violation of section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA, the envelope containing the letter displayed through a transparent window the account number assigned to plaintiff and defendant's name. Plaintiff alleges that defendant sent similar letters and envelopes to a class of approximately 40 other individuals residing in Texas.


A. Legal Standard

28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides that, "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." The court may transfer a case to another jurisdiction when:

(1) venue is proper in both the transferor and the transferee courts; (2) transfer is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses; and (3) transfer is in the interest of justice. Moore v. Motor Coach Indus., Inc. , 487 F.Supp.2d 1003, 1006 (N.D. Ill. 2007). The moving party has the burden of showing that the circumstances favor a transfer. Id. A transfer must promote the efficient administration of justice, rather than simply shift the inconvenience from one party to the other. See Black v. Mitsubishi Motors Credit of America, Inc., No. 94-C-3055 , 1994 WL 424112, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 10, 1994). District courts have broad discretion in deciding whether transfer is warranted. Cote v. Wadel , 796 F.2d 981, 985 (7th Cir. 1986).

B. Analysis

Because the parties do not dispute that venue is proper in both this court and the Western District of Texas, the court has discretion to transfer the case if doing so is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. "In determining whether a forum is more convenient, the court must consider the private interests of the parties as well as the public interest of the court." Aldridge v. Forest River, Inc. , 436 F.Supp.2d 959, 960 (N.D. Ill. 2006). The factors related to the parties' private interests include: "(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the parties; and (5) the convenience of the witnesses.'" Spread Spectrum Screening, LLC v. Eastman Kodak Co., No. 10-C-1101 , 2010 WL 3516106, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 1, 2010), quoting Amoco Oil Co. v. Mobile Oil Corp. , 90 F.Supp.2d 958, 960 (N.D. Ill. 2000).

Plaintiff argues that defendant has failed to establish that the Western District of Texas is more convenient than this venue. Generally, the plaintiff's choice of forum is given great weight. Id. However, as is the case here, where the plaintiff's forum is not his home forum and the chosen forum lacks significant contacts with the cause of action, the plaintiff's choice becomes merely one of several factors and is entitled to little weight. Id. Plaintiff and all of the putative 40 class members reside in Texas.

Not only is this district not home to plaintiff or any potential class members, it does not have significant ties to the cause of action. The only connection the Northern District of Illinois has with the instant cause of action is that defendant is located here and presumably sent the allegedly offending letter from here. However, as defendant contends, receipt of the letter, not the actual production of the letter, is the focus of this case. See Hyman v. Hill & Associates, No. 05-C-6486, 2006 WL 328260, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2006) (finding that the Northern District of Illinois bore a stronger relationship to the FDCPA dispute and was the situs of material events because the allegedly abusive phone calls were received in Illinois). Accordingly, because plaintiff and all potential class members are foreigners to Illinois and this district has limited contacts with the cause of action, the fact that plaintiff chose this district has little significance.

Defendant argues that because plaintiff and all of the potential class members received the offending letters in Texas, Texas is the situs of material events. In response, plaintiff argues that the creation of the envelope and the mailing of the letter are the material events of this lawsuit, not receipt of the letter. In support of this position, plaintiff relies on Bartlett v. Heibl , 128 F.3d 497, 499-500 (7th Cir. 1997), arguing that the Seventh Circuit has rejected the position that receipt of the debt collection letter is the material event in an FDCPA case. Plaintiff's reliance on Barlett is misplaced because Barlett did in fact receive the collection letter at issue, but failed to read it. Bartlett , 128 F.3d at 499 ("Heibl sent Bartlett a letter, which Bartlett received but did not read"). Barlett is also inapplicable to the present action because it did not involve section 1692f(8), but instead was a section 1692g(a) claim. Consequently, whether section 1692f(8) of the FDCPA requires receipt of the debt collection letter was not addressed by the Bartlett court.

Section 1692f(8) prohibits the use of "any language or symbol, other than the debt collector's address, on any envelop when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram." It is unclear to this court how a debt collector can communicate with a debtor by letter or telegram, as provided by the statute, without the debtor receiving the actual letter. Accordingly, the court concludes that the situs of material events in this action was Texas, not ...

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