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Washington v. Convergent Outsourcing, Inc.

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

March 23, 2017

JAMIE WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CONVERGENT OUTSOURCING, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jamie Washington (“Washington”) has sued Defendant Convergent Outsourcing, Inc. (“Convergent”) under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Washington and Convergent have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Washington's motion for summary judgment is denied, and Convergent's motion for summary judgment is granted.

         Factual Background[1]

         Sometime during or before 2013, Washington opened a consumer account with Comcast. See Pl.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 5, ECF No. 41-1; Def.'s LR 56.1(b)(3) Stmt. ¶ 49, ECF No. 54. On December 5, 2013, Comcast referred an unpaid bill of $1, 001 associated with Washington's account to Convergent for collection. Def.'s LR 56.1(b)(3) Stmt. ¶ 49. In turn, in October 2014, Convergent reported an unpaid balance of $1, 001 on Washington's account to various credit reporting bureaus, including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Pl.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 17.

         Around the same time, Washington met with legal aid attorneys to address potential concerns that she had with her credit report. Id. ¶ 8. Upon reviewing her credit report, Washington told her attorneys that she did not believe the debt Convergent had reported was accurate, because she did not recall owing any balance on her Comcast account. Id. ¶ 10. Accordingly, on October 17, 2014, Washington's attorneys sent Convergent a letter stating that the amount reported on the debt was not accurate. Id. ¶¶ 11, 14.

         After Convergent received this letter, one of its employees updated Washington's account to reflect the letter's contents per company policy. Def.'s LR 56.1(b)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 40-41, 53. In the course of updating the account, however, Convergent's employee made an error: the employee updated Washington's account by marking it with the code “3ACA” instead of “3DSP.” Id. ¶ 54. “3ACA” denotes that a consumer is represented by an attorney, whereas “3DSP” denotes that a consumer is represented by an attorney and disputes the debt in her account. Id. ¶ 43. Convergent acknowledges that Washington disputed her debt and that her account should therefore have been marked with the code “3DSP.” Id. ¶¶ 29, 31.

         On March 30, 2015, Comcast informed Convergent that Comcast would no longer be including “equipment charges” in account balances placed with Convergent for collection. Id. ¶ 56. Comcast also informed Convergent that all such charges would be removed from existing accounts no later than April 30, 2015. Id.

         ¶ 57. Accordingly, on April 19, 2015, Comcast removed a $680 equipment charge from Washington's account, leaving a balance of about $321. Id. ¶ 58.[2]

         Later that month, Convergent communicated the updated balance amount of $321 to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Pl.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 19. In so doing, Convergent failed to also communicate that the debt was disputed. Id. ¶ 22. If Convergent's employee had properly coded Washington's account with “3DSP” rather than “3ACA, ” then the information communicated to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion in April 2015 would have reflected that Washington disputed the debt. Def.'s LR 56.1(b)(3) Stmt. ¶ 55.

         Legal Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Shell v. Smith, 789 F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and instead must “establish some genuine issue for trial such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor.” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, courts “must construe all facts and reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007). But “[i]nferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.” Id. (quoting McDonald v. Vill. of Winnetka, 371 F.3d 992, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Analysis

         I. False Representation of the Amount of a Debt

         Under the FDCPA, “[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt, ” including any false representation about the amount of a debt. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692e, 1692e(2)(A). Washington claims that Convergent violated the FDCPA by falsely representing ...


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