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Stockman v. Credit Protection Association, LP.

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

June 28, 2017

ALEXANDRIA STOCKMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CREDIT PROTECTION ASSOCIATION, LP., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff Alexandria Stockman's (Stockman) motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff Elliott Gonzalez's (Gonzalez) motion for summary judgment, and Defendant Credit Protection Association, LP's (CPA) motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, CPA's motions for summary judgment are granted and Plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment are denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Although Stockman and Gonzalez have brought separate actions that have not been consolidated, their claims are premised on identical statements in the collection letters sent to each of them and are brought against the same Defendant. Although the record reflects that Stockman and Gonzalez gave individual testimony at their depositions, there are no material differences in their claims that would require a separate analysis for their claims. The summary judgment briefs filed by both sides in both cases are also nearly identical. In the interest of judicial efficiency, the court will therefore enter one memorandum opinion for both cases.

         Plaintiffs admit that they failed to pay Peoples Gas Light & Coke Company (PGLCC) and that they owed an unpaid debt to PGLCC. In October 2015, PGLCC allegedly submitted Gonzalez's account to CPA for collection. In December 2015 CPA allegedly sent Gonzalez a collection letter. In June 2016, CPA allegedly submitted Stockman's account to CPA for collection and CPA allegedly sent Stockman a collection letter. The relevant portions of the collections letters sent to Stockman and Gonzalez were identical. Plaintiffs contend that the language in the collection letters constituted technical violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. and that they suffered some concerns and distress as a result. Plaintiffs have each moved for summary judgment and CPA has moved for summary judgment in both cases.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). When there are cross motions for summary judgment, the court should "construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made." Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         DISCUSSION

         It is undisputed that the collection letters sent to Stockman and Gonzalez both contained the following language:

You authorize us to collect the state allowed service fee and any applicable sales tax through a draft or an electronic fund transfer from your account if your payment is returned unpaid. The check maker may be subject to collection and possibly legal action if the check amount and fees are not paid.

(ST RSF Par. 9); (G RSF Par. 9). Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692e (Section 1692e), "[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt." Id. In addition, pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692f, "[a] debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt." Id.

         I. Standing

         CPA argues that Plaintiffs lack standing in the instant action. Article III of the Constitution limits federal court jurisdiction to '"cases' or 'controversies, ' and therefore federal courts are restricted to resolving only the legal rights of litigants in actual controversies." Wright v. Calumet City, Illinois, 848 F.3d 814, 816 (7th Cir. 2017)(internal quotations omitted)(quoting Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 133 S.Ct. 1523, 1528 (2013)); see also Meyers v. Nicolet Rest. of De Pere, LLC, 843 F.3d 724, 727 (7th Cir. 2016)(stating that the Supreme "Court held that a concrete injury is required "even in the context of a statutory violation")(internal quotations omitted)(quoting Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1546 (2016)).

         CPA argues that Plaintiffs have not shown that they have suffered any actual harm. Plaintiffs contend that they suffered harm in the form of concerns, stress, and the deprivation of their right not to be sent false, misleading, and threatening statements from a debt collector. Stockman testified that after receiving the collection letter, she has a "general feeling" that CPA was going to sue her and Stockman asserts she suffered certain distress. (ST RSF Par. 18, 22). It is questionable how concerned Stockman was when she believed she might be sued considering the undisputed fact that her spouse is a consumer law attorney and is in fact the attorney representing her in this action. (ST RSF Par. 18-19). Gonzalez also testified as to certain general stress that he claims to have suffered. (G RSF Par. 28). Although any actual concrete injury to either of Plaintiffs appears to be minimal, even bordering on invisible, the courts in this district in this Circuit and other Circuits have consistently held that the type of violations of the FDCPA alleged in this case are sufficient to confer Article III standing. See, e.g., Church v. Accretive Health, Inc., 654 F.App'x 990, 994 (11th Cir. 2016); Haddadv. Midland Funding, LLC, 2017 WL 1550187, at *3 (N.D.Ill. 2017); Saenz v. Buckeye Check Cashing of Illinois, 2016 WL 5080747, at *2 (N.D.Ill. 2016); Lane v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, 2016 WL 3671467, at *2 (N.D.Ill. 2016)(fmding Article III standing when considering the ruling in Spokeo); Pogorzelski v. Patenaude, 2017 WL 2539782, at *3 (E.D. Wis. 2017)(stating that the plaintiffs "alleged violation of [the plaintiffs] right to receive certain required information under the FDCPA is not hypothetical or uncertain" and that the plaintiff "had a right to receive this information" and that Article III standing is satisfied "[a]lthough her alleged injury may not have resulted in tangible economic or physical harm"); Allgire v. HOVG, LLC, 2017 WL 1021394, at *3 (S.D. Ind. 2017)(stating that "it is possible to allege the statutory violations the Plaintiff alleges with no resulting harm or risk of harm"); Everett v. Fin. Recovery Servs., Inc., 2016 WL 6948052, at *4 (S.D. Ind. 2016); Long v. Fenton & McGarvey Law Firm P.S.C, 223 ...


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