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Speights-Carnegie v. The Blackstone Condominium Association

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

March 28, 2018

MAYA SPEIGHTS-CARNEGIE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BLACKSTONE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, THE PROPERTY LAW GROUP, LLC, and EBONY-DAWN LUCAS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Hon. Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Maya Speights-Carnegie filed a Complaint against the Blackstone Condominium Association, the Property Law Group, LLC (“PLG”), and Ebony-Dawn Lucas for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [56].

         STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS

         The Court must start with the unfortunate shortcomings of counsel for the Defendants who failed to ever file an answer to the Amended Complaint until after the summary judgment briefing and failed to appear on numerous occasions in court. Although Plaintiff would like this Court to deem all of the claims admitted and cites to some precedent for this outcome, see Wehrs v. Wells, 688 F.3d 886, 889 (7th Cir. 2012), Plaintiff's counsel had every opportunity to seek default long ago and failed to do so. Plaintiff's counsel sought numerous extensions of time to file a motion for summary judgment-indicating that Defendants' counsel are not the only party at fault. (See Dkt. 53.) Although Defendants' attorneys are not “paragons of responsible lawyering, ” their actions do not rise to the level of warranting an entry of default against their clients. Sun, 473 F.3d at 811.

         However, Defendants' failure to comply with the local rules as far as the motion for summary judgment is concerned deems Plaintiff statement of facts admitted. Counsel for Defendants failed to respond to Plaintiffs Statement of Facts in compliance with the Northern District of Illinois' Local Rule 56.1. In response to Plaintiff's Rule 56 statement, counsel filed “Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, ” which attached an affidavit of Defendant Lucas. (Dkt. 57.) The statement of facts section of the Response includes a chronology of the pleadings as well as a recitation of the state court's findings. (Dkt. 57 at 1). Defendants provide this information in three unnumbered paragraphs, which fail to respond directly to the facts asserted by Plaintiff. (Dkt. 57 at 1-2.) In accordance with the rules, in opposing a summary judgment motion a party must provide:

(3) a concise response to the movant's statement that shall contain:
(A) numbered paragraphs, each corresponding to and stating a concise summary of the paragraph to which it is directed, and
(B) a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon, and
(C) a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment, including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon. Absent prior leave of Court, a respondent to a summary judgment motion shall not file more than 40 separately- numbered statements of additional facts. All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.

See LR 56.1(3). Defendants' counsel did not follow this rule and failed to support any objections with documented evidence for the Court's review. Since district courts are entitled to enforce strict compliance with Rule 56.1, Defendants' Statement of Facts will be disregarded and Plaintiff's Statement of Facts is deemed admitted. See Ammons v. Aramark Unif. Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-18 (7th Cir. 2004) (district court did not abuse its discretion when it struck responses to statement of facts which were not included as a separate statement as envisioned by Rule 56.1); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“We have consistently held that a failure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”); Curtis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 807 F.3d 215, 219 (7th Cir. 2015) (explaining that the Seventh Circuit has “routinely upheld the district court's discretion in requiring parties to comply strictly with local rule requirements.”); F.T.C. v. Bay Area Bus. Council, Inc., 423 F.3d 627, 633 (7th Cir. 2005) (noting the important function of Rule 56.1 in “organizing the evidence and identifying disputed facts”). The affidavit attached to Defendants' Response also fails to comply with the requirements of Rule 56.1. See Bay Area, 423 F.3d at 633 (finding the affidavit attached to the response did not constitute compliance with Rule 56.1). Accordingly, the Court accepts as true the facts in Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 statement, and views these facts in the light most favorable to Defendants as the nonmoving party. Id. at 634.

         The following facts, therefore, are taken from Plaintiff's Statement of Facts and supported by the record and are not disputed.

         Plaintiff owned a condominium located at 6509 South Blackstone, Unit 1, in Chicago, Illinois. (Dkt. 19 ¶ 7.) Plaintiff incurred a debt connected to this property purported by Defendants to be for a post-due assessment, late charges, attorney fees, and services Defendant Blackstone claims had to be performed on Plaintiff's condominium. (Dkt. 19 ¶ 1.) Blackstone hired Lucas, principal of Property Law Group (“PLG”) to collect the debt from Plaintiff. (Dkt. 19 ¶¶ 5, 19.) According to Plaintiff, the record reflects the following communications were made to her in violation of the FDCPA: (1) Plaintiff's phone call to PLG on September 9, 2014[1]wherein she spoke with Lucas who failed to provide her with the amount of the debt owed or identify to whom the debt was owed; (2) the ledger emailed to Plaintiff's counsel on November 14, 2014 indicating Plaintiff owed $1500 in attorney's fees, $2063.75 in repair costs, and $450 in late charges; (3) the letter mailed to Plaintiff's counsel on March 4, 2015 including a ledger indicating Plaintiff owed $1500 in attorney fees, $2063.75 in repair costs, and $600 in late charges. (Dkt. 56-1; 56-6.) Plaintiff contends that Defendants misrepresented the amount, character, and legal status of the debt they sought to collect from Plaintiff throughout these communications. (Dkt. 56-1; 56-6 ¶¶ 6-9.)

         Defendants are each a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., as each regularly collects defaulted consumer debts. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 1.) The debt was a consumer debt in default and a debt under the FDCPA. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 2.) Further, Plaintiff is a consumer as defined by the FDCPA. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 3.)

         On behalf of Blackstone, Defendants Lucas and PLG filed a complaint against Plaintiff in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois on April 29, 2014. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 10.) The complaint, Blackstone Condominium Association v. Maya Speights Carnegie, No. 2014 M1125041, sought $6396 plus attorney fees and costs from Plaintiff. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 10.)

         On September 9, 2014, Plaintiff called Defendant PLG and spoke with Defendant Lucas. (Dkt. 19 ¶ 24). Plaintiff claims this was the initial communication with Defendants regarding the debt.[2] (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 4; Dkt. 57 ¶¶ 3-5.) Following this conversation, Defendants failed to mail a notice of debt within five days regarding the debt to either Plaintiff or her attorney. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 5.) Moreover, Defendants never mailed or transmitted a Notice of Debt to Plaintiff or her counsel as required under Section 1692g of the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692g.[3] (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 22.)

         On November 14, 2014, Lucas and PLG emailed[4] Plaintiff's counsel a ledger on behalf of Blackstone. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 15). The ledger indicated that Plaintiff owed $1500 in attorney fees, $2063.75 in repair costs, and $450 in late charges, calculated from February 10, 2010 through July 1, 2011. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 16.)

         On March 4, 2015, PLG and Lucas mailed Plaintiff's counsel a letter including a ledger which indicated Plaintiff owed $1500 in attorney fees, $2063.75 in repair costs for the Property, and $600 in late charges stemming from her ownership of the property. (Dkt. 56-6 ¶ 17.) This ...


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