United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES RONALD NORGLE JUDGE.
Richard Lewis ("Plaintiff) brought suit against
Defendant Northwest Collectors, Inc. ("Defendant"),
alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
("FDCPA"). The debt arises from PRA Behavioral,
LLC's ("PRA") medical treatment of Plaintiff.
PRA later assigned Plaintiffs debt to Defendant, who then
sought to collect the debt. Before the Court are the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. This opinion
addresses both parties' motions. For the following
reasons, Plaintiffs motion is denied, and Defendant's
motion is granted in part and denied in part.
parties' pleadings in this case are meager. The Complaint
entails merely sixteen paragraphs outside of the
jurisdictional and party statements, covering four counts.
Regarding the Local Rule 56.1 statements of facts, Plaintiff
provides only eleven paragraphs pertaining to material facts,
and Defendant pleads just ten additional facts. Furthermore,
Plaintiff fails to comply with LR 56.1(b)(3) in his response
to Defendant's statement of additional facts. Plaintiff
states that all but one of Defendant's additional facts
are "irrelevant, " "undisputed, " or
both. Then, Plaintiff proceeds to set forth legal arguments
attempting to establish the irrelevance of many of
Defendant's statement of additional facts. Irrelevance is
not a basis upon which Plaintiff may present a dispute of
material fact pursuant to LR 56.1; nor is Plaintiffs LR
56.1(b)(3) response the proper place to use legal arguments
to undermine Defendant's position. Accordingly, the Court
deems such facts undisputed and adopts Defendant's
June and October 2014, Plaintiff incurred debts with PRA for
medical treatment. On or around February 20, 2015, the
Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois mailed
a notice of Plaintiff s pending bankruptcy action to PRA.
Defendant, however, disputes that PRA actually received such
March 16, 2015, PRA placed Plaintiffs debt for collection
with Defendant, including Plaintiffs full name, date of
birth, and social security number. Although the parties make
no mention of additional information housed within the
identification materials, the document also entails notations
regarding what appear to be Plaintiffs bankruptcy status and
bankruptcy attorney. However, the meanings of these notations
are not clearly self-evident, and the parties provide no
elaboration to elucidate the context. Defendant never
performed or attempted to perform a bankruptcy scrub to
determine whether Plaintiff had filed for bankruptcy.
However, Defendant's 30(b)(6) witness represented that
Defendant has an agreement with PRA, which provides that PRA
will not refer debtors in bankruptcy and will immediately
notify Defendant upon obtaining knowledge that an account is
subject to bankruptcy or discharge in bankruptcy.
March 18, 2015, Defendant mailed a collection letter to
Plaintiff. When Plaintiff received Defendant's letter
referencing the PRA debt, Plaintiff knew that his bankruptcy
petition listed the PRA debt. After receiving Defendant's
collection letter, Plaintiff was concerned about extra fees
to his bankruptcy attorney if the attorney were to amend the
bankruptcy filings to reflect the debt to Defendant.
Additionally, Plaintiff relayed Defendant's letter to his
bankruptcy attorney, who responded that he "would take
care of it." Def.'s Additional Statement of Material
Facts ¶ 6, Ex. 4, Trans, p. 15:17-21 (internal
quotations omitted). Although Plaintiff feared paying
additional attorney fees, Plaintiff was aware that his
bankruptcy proceedings fell under Chapter Seven, which is a
liquidation of all debts listed in the bankruptcy petition.
Accordingly, Plaintiff also knew that any debt listed in that
bankruptcy filing would be discharged and that he would no
longer be liable for repayment of listed debts. The pleadings
do not present evidence indicating that the bankruptcy
proceedings have been completed.
asserts that on May 21, 2015,  Defendant sent to PRA a letter
notifying PRA of Plaintiffs claims. Defendant contends, and
deposition testimony and letter itself reflect, that
Plaintiffs claims are not enumerated in that letter. Instead,
the letter attached as an exhibit merely explains that
Defendant had the accounts in its system, PRA should refer
all contacts to Defendant, debtors may send payments directly
to PRA, and PRA must notify Defendant of any bankruptcy
notifications or disputes received in order for Defendant to
comply the FDCPA.
parties fail to elucidate in their statements of fact how or
when Defendant actually acquired knowledge of Plaintiff s
bankruptcy. Deposition testimony, however, reflects that
Defendant learned of Plaintiff s bankruptcy when Defendant
contacted Plaintiff by phone. During that call, Plaintiff
stated that he was filing Chapter Seven bankruptcy and
volunteered his bankruptcy attorney. After learning of
Plaintiff s bankruptcy, Defendant updated Plaintiffs account
to reflect his status as bankrupt. According to Defendant, it
took no further collection efforts after it changed
Plaintiffs account status.
Count I, Plaintiff invokes 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2),
alleging that Defendant sent him a collection letter seeking
to collect a debt that Defendant knew or should have known
was part of Plaintiffs bankruptcy filings. In doing so,
Defendant allegedly misrepresented the status of the debt.
Count II sets forth an infraction of § 1692e(10) for
allegedly falsely representing to Plaintiff that it could
collect a debt that Defendant knew or should have known was
included in Plaintiffs bankruptcy proceedings. Count III
alleges that Defendant's attempt to collect the debt was
unfair and unconscionable in violation of § 1692f
because Defendant knew or should have known the debt was
included in Plaintiffs bankruptcy. Finally, in Count IV,
Plaintiff points to § 1692c(a)(2), claiming that
Defendant violated the FDCPA because Defendant communicated
directly with Plaintiff despite his retention of counsel
concerning the debt. Both parties move for summary judgment
on all four counts.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when 'the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'"
Northfield Ins. Co. v. City of Waukegan, 701 F.3d
1124, 1128 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a));
see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986). "A genuine issue of material fact exists when
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Wells v.
Coker, 707 F.3d 756, 760 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). "On summary
judgment a court may not make credibility determinations,
weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from
the facts; these are jobs for a factfinder." Payne
v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986)). The general standards for summary judgment are
unaltered by cross summary judgment motions: the Court
"construe[s] all facts and inferences therefrom in favor
of the party against whom the motion under consideration is
made." Selective Ins. Co. of S.C. v. Target
Corp., No. 16-1669, 2016 WL 7473786, at *2 (7th Cir.
Dec. 29, 2016) (citation and quotation marks omitted).
Claims Regarding Defendant's Attempts to Collect Debts