United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Patrick Gillespie, Plaintiff: Paul Mathew Bach, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Ahmad Tayseer Sulaiman, First, Daniel John McGarry,
Matthew H. Hector, Mohammed Omar Badwan, Sulaiman Law Group,
Ltd., Oak Brook, IL.
Blitt & Gaines, P.C., Defendant: Michael L. Starzec, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Blitt and Gaines, P.C., Wheeling, IL.
Opinion and Order
SCOTT FEINERMAN, United States District Judge.
November 15, 2013, Blitt & Gaines, P.C., a debt collection
law firm, sued Patrick Gillespie in state court on behalf of
its client, Citibank, N.A., over an alleged $3,200 debt. Doc.
1-1. Blitt filed the suit in the Richard J. Daley Center
Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois, which is part of the First
Municipal District of the Circuit Court of Cook County,
Illinois. Doc. 27 at 1; Doc. 35; Doc. 1-1 at 2. Gillespie,
though, lived in River Grove, Illinois, which lies in the
Fourth Municipal District. Doc. 27 at 1; Doc. 35; Doc. 1-2 at
2. Gillespie did not appear in the collection suit, and Blitt
obtained a default judgment. Doc. 27 at 1; Doc. 35.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (" FDCPA" )
requires debt collectors to file collection actions in the
" judicial district or similar legal entity" where
the contract was signed or where the debtor resides. 15
U.S.C. § 1692i(a)(2). When Blitt sued Gillespie in
November 2013, Newsom v. Friedman, 76 F.3d 813 (7th
Cir. 1996), explicitly permitted a debt collector to file a
collection suit in a municipal district of the Cook County
Circuit Court other than the one where the debtor resided.
Id. at 819 (holding that because " the
Municipal Department districts are neither defined as
judicial districts, nor ... function as judicial
districts," they " do not fit within the definition
of 'judicial district' as employed by the FDCPA"
). Just two weeks before Blitt filed its suit, in fact, a
panel of the Seventh Circuit, " see[ing] no reason to
depart from [the court's] existing approach in §
1692i cases," adhered to Newsom. Suesz v. Med-1
Solutions, LLC, 734 F.3d 684, 686 (7th Cir. 2013).
months later, however, the Seventh Circuit reversed course,
vacating the panel opinion in Suesz ; overruling
Newsom ; holding that " the correct
interpretation of 'judicial district or similar legal
entity' in § 1692i is the smallest geographic area
that is relevant for determining venue in the court system in
which the case is filed" ; and, critically for this
case, giving its new interpretation of § 1692i
retroactive effect, even though debt collectors " ha[d]
relied on Newsom to allow them to choose venue
anywhere in the appropriate county." Suesz v. Med-1
Solutions, LLC, 757 F.3d 636, 638, 649 (7th Cir. 2014)
(en banc). For Blitt, this was very bad luck or, depending on
your perspective, proof that karma exists. Taking advantage
of this opportunity for litigation arbitrage, Gillespie
promptly sued under the FDCPA. Doc. 1. His lawyers--bereft of
shame or, again depending on your perspective, serving as
karma's logistics department--have brought twenty-one
other suits against Blitt and dozens more against other debt
collectors, all for collection suits initiated prior to the
en banc decision in Suesz. Doc. 26 at 10-11 & nn.9 &
light of Suesz, Blitt admitted that it had violated
§ 1692i by filing in the First Municipal District and
therefore conceded that the Gillespie was entitled to summary
judgment as to liability. Doc. 22; 3/10/2015 Tr. (Doc. 36-1)
at 2-3. Now before the court is Blitt's motion for
summary judgment as to damages, which contends that under the
particular facts and circumstances of this case,
Gillespie's damages should be nil. Doc. 26.
FDCPA allows the recovery of actual damages and statutory
damages. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a). At the
hearing where Blitt conceded liability, Gillespie represented
that he would be seeking only statutory damages, as well as
attorney fees and costs:
THE COURT: ... The plaintiff, by agreement of the parties, is
granted summary judgement ... solely as to liability on the
FDCPA claim. And then the only issue is damages.
And what's the plaintiff looking for here?
MS BLACH: We're looking for statutory [damages] of $1,000
and reasonable ...