United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CYNTHIA IRVIN, LAWRENCE CAMERON, ANTONIO JIMENEZ, and CHERISE FUNCHES, Plaintiffs,
NATIONWIDE CREDIT AND COLLECTION, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GETTLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Cynthia Irvin, Lawrence Cameron, Antonio Jimenez and Cherise
Funches have brought a consolidated complaint against
defendant Nationwide Credit and Collection, Inc., alleging
that defendant has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practice
Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et
seq. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary
judgment. For the reasons that follow, plaintiffs' motion
for summary judgment is denied, and defendant's motion
for summary judgment is granted.
is an Illinois corporation that is engaged in the business of
collecting debts. It is registered as a collection agency
with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional
Regulation, and as such is a “debt collector” as
that term is defined by the FDCPA.
each had outstanding balances owed to Rush University Medical
Group or Loyola University Hospital. Each failed to make
timely payments on their accounts. None had ever contacted
the creditor to dispute their accounts or the balance on
their accounts. As a result, defendant began to make
collection efforts, including reporting plaintiffs'
accounts to a credit bureau and sending a total of eight
collection notice letters over the course of several years.
Each of those notices listed defendant's fax number as:
“Fax: (800) 485-0207.”
each sought the assistance of lawyers Michael Jacob Wood and
or Celetha Chatman of Community Lawyers Group, Ltd.
(“CLG”). Attorney Wood or Chatman then sent
several letters (dated March 11, 19, 24, and April 10, 2018)
to defendant purporting to dispute the amounts owed. Each
letter provided as follows:
Dear Sir or Madame:
The above referenced client is represented by our firm
regarding all matters in connection with the above referenced
debt. Please direct any future communication regarding this
account to our office. This client regrets not being able to
pay, however, at this time they are insolvent as their
monthly expenses exceed the amount of income they receive,
and the debt reported on the credit report is inaccurate. If
their circumstances change we will be in touch.
knowing that defendant's fax number was listed on the
collection notices, and despite having used that number at
least 15 times, attorney Wood searched the internet to
discover a different fax number to which to send the
“dispute letters.” He found that number
“(630) 528-5010, ” on the American Collectors
Association's (“ACA”) website. The ACA is a
group of debt collectors and collection agencies around the
country that attends forums and discusses industry practices
and trends. Wood, a member of the National Association of
Consumer Advocates, is not a member of ACA and has no ACA
not entirely clear from the record why plaintiffs'
attorneys used this number, but it is undisputed that
defendant did not use the number for collection purposes.
Defendant has submitted evidence that it believed the number
was no longer in service and that it has no record of that
number receiving any faxes. The fax machine, which was
located in defendant's main office was, however,
apparently still operable at the time the faxes were sent
because Wood has fax confirmations. In any
event, there is no evidence that any employee of defendant
actually saw any of the faxes sent by CLG. According to
defendant, the first time anyone at defendant saw the
“dispute letters” was after this lawsuit was
there is no dispute that defendant maintains policies and
procedures for processing and responding to correspondence it
receives from a consumer or attorney disputing a debt. CLG
knew this when it sent the “dispute letters”
because it had previously sent letters to the fax number
provided by defendant and those dispute letters were
parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate if “the movant shows
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(s); Celotex v. Catrett 477 U.S. 317,
322 (1986). A moving party can prevail on summary judgment by
either pointing to undisputed facts supported by the record
that demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment, or it can
point to an absence of evidence of an essential element of
the responding party's claim or affirmative defense.
Id. Once a moving party has met its burden, the
nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill
Associates, Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (1990). The court
does not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility
determinations, but considers the evidence as a whole and
draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Green v. Carlson, 826 F.2d 647, 651
(7th Cir. 1987).
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 (186). The
nonmoving party, must, however, do more than simply
“show there is some metaphysical doubt about the
material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the [nonmoving party's] position will be
insufficient, there must be some evidence on which the jury
could reasonably find for the [nonmoving] party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see Modrowski v.
Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1167 (7th Cir. 2003) (The ...