May 30, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No.
l:15-cv-01922-DML-WTL Debra McVicker Lynch, Magistrate Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Sykes and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
collector Med-1 Solutions, LLC, attempted to recover two
unpaid medical bills on behalf of Beth Lavallee's
healthcare provider. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
("FDCPA" or "the Act") required Med-1 to
disclose certain information to Lavallee about her debts
within a specific time frame. 15 U.S.C. § l692g(a).
Med-1 could satisfy its § l692g(a) disclosure
obligations by including the required information in its
"initial communication" with Lavallee or by sending
"a written notice containing" the disclosures
within five days after that "initial
March and April 2015, Med-1 sent Lavallee two emails, one for
each debt. The emails contained hyperlinks to a Med-1
vendor's web server. Once there, a visitor had to click
through multiple screens to access and download a .pdf
document containing the disclosures required by §
l692g(a). Lavallee never opened these emails. When the
hospital called her in November to discuss a different
medical debt, she learned about the earlier debts and was
told that they had been referred to Med-1 for collection. She
then called Med-1 to inquire about them, but the debt
collector didn't provide the required disclosures. Nor
did it send a written notice within the next five days.
sued Med-1 for violating § l692g(a). She alleged that
Med-1 never provided the statutory disclosures, either during
the November phone call or within five days as required.
Med-1 responded that its March and April emails were the
"initial communication[s]" and argued that they
contained the mandatory disclosures. A magistrate judge,
presiding by consent, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), granted
Lavallee's motion for summary judgment.
affirm. Med-1 concedes its failure to send Lavallee a written
notice within five days of her phone call. This appeal rests
on Med-l's contention that its emails were initial
communications that contained the required disclosures. But
the emails do not qualify under the Act's definition of
"communication" because they did not "convey
... information regarding a debt." 15 U.S.C. §
l692a(2). Nor did the emails "contain" the
statutorily mandated disclosures. § l692g(a). At most
the emails provided a means to access the disclosures via a
multistep online process. Because Med-1 violated §
l692g(a), the judge was right to enter judgment for Lavallee.
incurred two debts for medical services provided by a
hospital. The hospital referred the debts to Med-1 for
collection. Med-1 emailed Lavallee on March 20 and April 17,
2015, sending the messages from
"firstname.lastname@example.org" to the email address
Lavallee had provided to the hospital. The emails stated that
"Med-1 Solutions has sent you a secure message" and
featured an embedded hyperlink inviting the recipient to
email was returned to Med-1 as undelivered, but Lavallee
doesn't recall seeing them in her inbox. If Lavallee had
opened either email and clicked on the hyperlink, she would
have been directed via a web browser to a server operated by
Privacy Data Systems, Medl's sister company. She would
have seen a screen asking her to check a box to sign for the
"SecurePackage." Checking that box would have
activated the "Open SecurePackage" button at the
bottom of the screen, and clicking that button would have
revealed a screen with "SecurePackage Display"
written across the top. Had she selected the
"Attachments" tab on that screen, a .pdf file would
have appeared. Had she clicked on that .pdf file, she would
have seen a pop-up window asking her if she wanted to open
the attachment with Adobe Acrobat or save it to her hard
drive. Only then could she have viewed the document or
downloaded the file and then opened it.
file contained the disclosures required by § l692g(a),
including the amount of the debt, the consumer's right to
dispute the debt, and how to obtain more information about
the alleged creditor. This type of notice is commonly called
a "validation notice." Durkin v. Equifax Check
Sews., Inc., 406 F.3d 410, 412 (7th Cir. 2005).
received reports from Privacy Data Systems indicating which
email recipients had downloaded validation notices. Privacy
Data Systems' records show that Lavallee never clicked
the "Open SecurePackage" hyperlink and thus ...