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Carter v. Monarch Recovery Management, Inc.

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

March 20, 2018

STEVEN CARTER, Plaintiff,
v.
MONARCH RECOVERY MANAGEMENT, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN Z. LEE United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Steven Carter alleges that Defendant Monarch Recovery, Inc. (“Monarch”), sent him a debt-collection letter that contained false, misleading, or deceptive language, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. Carter also contends that Monarch's letter violated provisions of the Illinois Collection Agency Act (“ICAA”), 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. 425/9(a). Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, Monarch's motion is granted, and Carter's motion is denied.

         Background[1]

         Plaintiff Steven Carter is a resident of Chicago, Illinois, and Defendant Monarch Recovery Management, Inc., is a Pennsylvania corporation which collects debts on behalf of third parties. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 1, 2, ECF No. 31; Pl.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 9, ECF No. 38. In 2016, Carter defaulted on a credit-card debt to Citibank. Pl.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 6. Citibank “charged off” the account in October 2015 with a balance of $16, 743.33, id. ¶ 7, and, on May 23, 2016, Citibank placed Carter's account with Monarch for collection, id. ¶ 8. The balance remained $16, 743.33. Id.

         On May 25, 2016, Monarch sent Carter a debt-collection letter seeking $16, 743.33 and stating, in relevant part:

Because of interest, late charges, and other charges that may vary from day to day, the amount due on the day you pay may be greater. Hence, if you pay the amount shown above, an adjustment may be necessary after we receive your check, in which event we will inform you before depositing the check for collection.

Id. ¶ 10. In short, Monarch's letter informed Carter that the balance of $16, 743.33 might increase by the time Carter were to pay it. See id.

         Monarch did not have its own authority to add additional charges for accounts that it received from creditors, such as interest or late fees. But creditors such as Citibank would sometimes add additional such fees. Id. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Ex. C, Mazzacano Dep. at 20:15, 21:21-22:1, ECF No. 38-4. Monarch would then pass on these additional fees to the consumer. Pl.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 14. Here, however, Citibank and Monarch never added additional fees to the $16, 743.33 amount. Id. ¶¶ 16, 17.

         Legal Standards

         When deciding a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Shell v. Smith, 789 F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). The motion will be granted if there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. Rule 56 “requires the district court to grant a motion for summary judgment after discovery ‘against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'” Silverman v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi., 637 F.3d 729, 743 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

         The moving party has the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party has sufficiently demonstrated the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must then set forth specific facts showing there are disputed material facts that must be decided at trial. See id. at 321-22. The Court must not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence. McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Analysis

         I. Carter's FDCPA Claim

         According to Carter, the language in Monarch's letter violated the FDCPA because it falsely, deceptively, or misleadingly represented that Monarch might add additional charges to the $16, 743.33 balance, even though Monarch had neither the intention nor authority to do so. In seeking summary judgment on Carter's claim, Monarch argues that Carter has produced insufficient evidence ...


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