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Qualls v. T-H Professional & Medical Collections, Ltd.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

July 20, 2017

RAFAEL TREUJELLO QUALLS, Plaintiff,
v.
T-H PROFESSIONAL & MEDICAL COLLECTIONS, LTD. Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          James E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is now before the Court on Defendant, T-H Professional & Medical Collections, Ltd.'s, Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion [19] is GRANTED.

         Background[1]

         On May 22, 2016, Plaintiff Qualls filed a Complaint against T-H Professional & Medical Collections, Ltd. (“T-H”), seeking damages under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 (“F D C PA ”). Doc. 1. According to the Complaint and Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff is an individual with numerous health problems. Id., Doc. 21. He is unable to work due to his health issues and was awarded Social Security Disability benefits in September 2016. He has incurred a large amount of debt due to his medical treatment and is regularly contacted by collection agencies.

         Defendant T-H is a third-party collection agency specializing in the recovery of defaulted medical debt. Plaintiff alleges that on May 17, 2016, he checked his credit report and saw an unfamiliar entry listing T-H's name and phone number. Plaintiff called T-H to get information about why it was listed on his credit report. After speaking to two representatives, Mel and Faith, they informed him that he owed a total of $13, 831.72 across sixteen accounts. Plaintiff states he inquired into settlement options and was advised that he could get the balance down to $7, 500, but the settlement offer was a one-time invitation that had to be accepted that day.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant shows, through “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations … admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” 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. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

         In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). When presented with a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the record “in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and avoid[] the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true.” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). If the evidence, however, is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative or merely raises ‘some metaphysical doubt as the material facts, ' summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50. Thus, in order to overcome the undisputed facts set forth in a defendants' motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff cannot rest on the allegations in his complaint but must point to affidavits, depositions or other evidence of an admissible sort that a genuine dispute of material fact exists between parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2); Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996).

         Analysis

         (1) Local Rule 7.1(D)

         Both Parties failed to comply with Local Rule 7.1(D). The requirements imposed upon litigants by Rule 56 and Local Rule 7.1(D) are “intended to alert the court to precisely what factual questions are in dispute and point the court to the specific evidence in the record that supports a party's position on each of these questions. They are, in short, roadmaps, and without them the court should not have to proceed further, regardless of how readily it might be able to distill the relevant information from the record on its own.” Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 923 (7th Cir. 1994). Likewise, Defendant's statement in his Reply brief-that his failure to adhere to the Local Rules is immaterial “because the Defendant [sic] was given sufficient notice of the facts and argument, and argued what he felt was immaterial; and disputed what he felt needed to be disputed”-is mistaken. See Waldridge, 24 F.3d at 922 (“We have also repeatedly upheld the strict enforcement of these [local] rules …”).

         The shortcomings in Plaintiff's Response are even more egregious. Therein, Plaintiff is quick to point out Defendant's noncompliance with Local Rule 7.1(D). However, of the 13 statements of fact (more accurately, mixed statements of fact and law), Plaintiff's Response first lists statements 1 through 3 as “undisputed material facts, ” and then lists statements 1 through 4 as “disputed material facts.” Plaintiff reasons that he “lacks sufficient facts, knowledge and/or evidence to concede or dispute Defendant's undisputed facts” because of Defendant's failure to comply with the Local Rules. Doc. 21, at 2. Thereafter, Plaintiff completely neglects to respond to the remaining statements (5 through 13) and proceeds to rewrite the facts as “additional material facts.” Plaintiff's violation of the Local Rules is sufficient by itself to grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008) (argumentative responses that simultaneously deny the veracity of a defendant's proposed material fact and present separate, additional facts risk the possibility that the Court will consider defendant's proposed fact as undisputed); Bell, Boyd & Lloyd v. Tapy, 896 F.2d 1101, 1103 (7th Cir. 1990) (granting summary judgment based on inadequacy of non-movant's factual statement, despite acknowledgement that affidavit underlying that statement was otherwise sufficient to establish dispute of material fact under Rule 56).

         (2) The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

         The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., was enacted “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent State action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses.” Id., § 1692. Section 1692e provides that “[a] debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” The statute then goes on to provide a non-exhaustive list of conduct which violates the above prohibition. Here, ...


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