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Sprague v. Neil

January 10, 2008

ROGER W. SPRAGUE, PLAINTIFF
v.
BURTON NEIL, ESQUIRE; BURTON NEIL & ASSOCIATES P.C.; YALE D. WEINSTEIN, ESQUIRE; EDWARD J. O'BRIEN, ESQUIRE; JAY H. PRESSMAN, ESQUIRE; DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia H. Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Roger W. Sprague filed a complaint alleging that Defendant Burton Neil & Associates, P.C., and its employees, Defendants Burton Neil, Esq., Yale D. Weinstein, Esq., Edward J. O'Brien, Esq., and Jay H. Pressman, Esq., violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), and Pennsylvania's Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act ("FCEUA") and Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts. Because the court finds that Sprague's complaint was filed after the statute of limitations for his claim under the FDCPA had terminated, summary judgment will be granted for Defendants on that claim. Judgment being appropriate on the one issue providing this court with original jurisdiction, the court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims and those claims will be dismissed without discussion. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

I. Background

A. Facts

On or about August 12, 2001, Plaintiff Roger Sprague applied for two credit cards with AT&T Universal Card/Citi Cards, account numbers ending in 1143 and 6394, respectively. The cards were used primarily for personal, family, and household purposes. Documents attached to Sprague's complaint indicate that an attempt was made to collect debt accrued on both cards in January 2003. (Compl. Ex. 3.) Sprague responded to the attempt at collection by alleging a violation of federal law by Citicorp as to account 6349 and disputing the amount owed on account 1143. (Id.)

Citibank (South Dakota) N.A. ("Citibank") then retained Defendant Burton Neil & Associates, P.C. ("Firm"), to collect the debts owing on the two accounts. (Defs.' Exs. A, C.) The correspondence between the Firm and Sprague regarding account 1143 was as follows. Neil wrote a letter to Sprague on April 1, 2003, notifying Sprague that the Firm had been retained by Citibank to collect $1,386.51, the amount Citibank alleged Sprague owed. (Defs.' Ex. A.) Citibank had instructed the Firm to file a lawsuit to reduce the debt to judgment. The Firm sought to give Sprague the benefit of settling the debt without resort to suit.

The letter gave Sprague thirty days to dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof. If Sprague chose to dispute the debt, the Firm would obtain and provide verification of the debt. The last paragraph stated that the letter was "an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose. In making this communication, we advise that our firm is a debt collector." (Id.)

Sprague responded on April 11, 2003. He disputed the debt alleged to be owed on account 1143 and requested verification and validation. (Defs.' Ex. B.)

Sprague stated that he was not "seeking to obtain copies of any monthly statements, or a copy of an agreement or application, but [was] requesting competent evidence of a bona fide debt, and that Citibank did not breach the agreement by failing to credit [his] account for money accepted." (Id.)

On June 25, 2003, Neil sent a letter stating that he enclosed "copies of the account statements to verify the debt" owed on account 1143. (Defs.' Ex. F.) The account statement attached to the letter, however, was for a Citi Premium Select Card ending in 2647. (Id.) There is no indication of how the 2647 account relates to or impacts the alleged debt owed on the 1143 account. Sprague objected to the attempt to validate the debt by a copy of an account statement by letter of July 14, 2003. (Defs.' Ex. H.) He did not address the discrepancy in account numbers.

Correspondence regarding account 6394 began with a letter from Weinstein on April 22, 2003. (Defs.' Ex. C.) The letter contained the same language and notices as the initial letter for account 1143. On April 26, 2003, Sprague notified the Firm that he disputed the debt alleged to be owed on account 6394 and requested verification and validation thereof. (Defs.' Ex. D.) Again, Sprague noted his desire for "competent evidence of a bona fide debt and that AT&T Universal/Citi Cards/Citibank did not breach the agreement by failing to credit [his] account for money accepted," rather than "copies of any monthly statements, or a copy of an agreement or application." (Id.)

Neil responded on June 11, 2003 with a letter "enclos[ing] copies of the account statements to verify the debt" alleged to be owed on account 6394. (Defs.' Ex. E.) The account statement enclosed was one for account 6394 and reflected a balance of $7,189.00 as of October 15, 2001. (Id.) The amount the Firm alleged to be owed on the card was $16,515.52. (Id.) Sprague replied to the Firm on June 27, 2003, noting his objection to validating the debt by an account statement. (Defs.' Ex. G.)

On September 16, 2003, the Firm filed a complaint on behalf of Citibank against Sprague in the Court of Common Pleas, York County, Pennsylvania, seeking judgment on the debts owing on accounts 1143 and 6394 and for attorneys' fees. (Defs.' Ex. I.) Neil signed the complaint. Sprague notes receipt of the complaint on ...


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