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Sanchez v. Jackson

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

November 21, 2016

JOANNA SANCHEZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN LEE JACKSON and UNIVERSAL FIDELITY, LP, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Joanna Sanchez (“Plaintiff”) alleges that Defendants John Lee Jackson (“Jackson”) and Universal Fidelity, LP (“Universal”) (collectively, “Defendants”) violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692, et seq., by failing to provide a proper debt validation notice to Plaintiff. First Am. Comp. [18]. On September 15, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defs.' Mot. Dismiss [21]. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff sets forth the following relevant facts, which the Court accepts as true for the purposes of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Sometime before the spring of 2016, Plaintiff, an Illinois resident, incurred a consumer debt from a Montgomery Ward credit account. First Am. Compl. [18] ¶ 10. Plaintiff did not pay the debt and it went into default. Id. ¶ 11.

         Universal is a debt collection agency with its principal place of business in Houston, Texas.[1] Id. ¶¶ 8-9. On or about March 22, 2016, Universal sent a notice to Plaintiff regarding her outstanding debt.[2]

         In addition to its own collection efforts, Universal also retained Jackson, an independent Texas attorney, to assist in the collection of outstanding debts. First Am. Compl. [18] Ex. B. On or about May 9, 2016, Jackson sent a one-page, two-sided collection letter to Plaintiff. Id. The letter constituted Jackson's initial communication with Plaintiff. First Am. Compl. [18] ¶ 16. The letterhead provided Jackson's name and address and identified Jackson as an “ATTORNEY ON RETAINER FOR UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP.” First Am. Compl. [18] Ex. B. In the body of the letter, Jackson stated the following:

I am an Attorney and I am on retainer with Universal Fidelity LP. I am not an employee of Universal Fidelity LP and only advise them of corporate law and therefore advise them on legal matters. This letter is being sent to you because I am involved in the collection strategy of the outstanding accounts owed to them. You will not be sued by Universal Fidelity LP or by me, this is just a collection letter to request you pay this account owed to Montgomery Ward.
Their records indicate that you are indebted to them for the amount of $182.94. Universal Fidelity LP offers convenient payment options to help you satisfy this claim. I have received the files from Universal Fidelity LP Electronically [sic] and conducted a cursory review and approved the release of these letters. Do not consider this letter a notification of intent to sue: since I do not have the legal authority to sue and Universal Fidelity LP will not sue you, this is a request for payment only: I have not, nor will I, review the detail of your account status.

Id. (emphasis added) (other emphasis removed). The bottom of Jackson's letter stated, “This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose. This communication is from a debt collector.” Id. (emphasis in original). The bottom of the letter also provided a payment slip addressed to Universal. Id.

         (Image Omitted)

         The reverse side of Jackson's letter stated, in relevant part (and in all caps), the following:

UNLESS YOU NOTIFY UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP, WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER RECEIVING YOUR INITIAL NOTICE THAT YOU DISPUTE THE VALIDITY OF THIS DEBT OR ANY PORTION THEREOF, UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP WILL ASSUME THIS DEBT IS VALID. IF YOU NOTIFY UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP IN WRITING WITHIN 30 DAYS FROM RECEIVING YOUR INITIAL NOTICE, UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP WILL OBTAIN VERIFICATION OF THE DEBT OR OBTAIN A COPY OF A JUDGEMENT [SIC] AND MAIL YOU A COPY OF SUCH JUDGEMENT [SIC] OR VERIFICATION. IF YOU MAKE A REQUEST TO UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP IN WRITING WITHIN 30 DAYS AFTER RECEIVING YOUR INITIAL NOTICE, UNIVERSAL FIDELITY LP WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH THE NAME AND ADDRESS OF THE ORIGINAL CREDITOR, IF DIFFERENT FROM THE CURRENT CREDITOR.

Id. (emphasis added). Plaintiff did not receive any further communication from Jackson aside from the May 9, 2016 correspondence. First Am. Compl. [18] ¶ 23.

         On June 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed a class action suit in this Court. Compl. [1].

         On August 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint [18]. In her sole count, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated § 1692g(a) of the FDCPA.

         Generally, § 1692g(a) provides that “in either the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of a debt or another written notice sent within five days of the first, a debt collector must provide specific information to the consumer.” Janetos v. Fulton Friedman & Gullace, LLP, 825 F.3d 317, 320-31 (7th Cir. 2016). Specifically, § 1692g(a) states:

Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt, send the consumer a written notice containing-
(1) the amount of the debt;
(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt ...

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