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Cathy Sasscer v. James D. Donnelly

April 20, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court is Plaintiff Cathy Sasscer's motion for summary judgment. Having been fully briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition.


This case arises out of dealings over a debt owed by plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated her rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692, and related state laws. Plaintiff, a resident of Hawley, Pennsylvania, incurred a financial obligation to Skylands Community Bank ("Bank") in August 2007. (Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 19) (hereinafter "Plaintiff's Statement") at ¶¶ 1, 4-5). Plaintiff contends she incurred this debt when she purchased an automobile from Trade Zone Auto Sales in Hackettstown, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 5). She financed her purchase through a promissary note executed with the Bank. (Id. at ¶ 6).

Plaintiff subsequently went into arrears on her payments to the bank and the creditor repossessed the automobile and sold it at auction. (Id. at ¶¶ 7-8). Defendant James D. Donnelly, a debt collector as defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1692a(6), thereafter contracted with the creditor to collect the debt. (Id. at ¶ 9; Defendant's Counterstatement of Material Facts (Doc. 21) (hereinafter "Defendant's Statement") at ¶ 9).

On October 22, 2009, Donnelly sent plaintiff a demand letter seeking $3,906.51, which was alleged due on her account with the Bank. (Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 10). The letter contained language stating that plaintiff could dispute the debt. (Id. ¶ 11). The parties disagree about whether the letter also stated that plaintiff could request verification of the debt. (Id. at ¶ 11; Defendant's Statement at ¶ 11). On November 17, 2009, plaintiff sent defendant a letter disputing the debt. (Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 12). Defendant sent plaintiff a letter in response on November 20, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 13). The letter enclosed a copy of the original promissary note for $20,000 between plaintiff and Skylands Bank. (Id. at ¶ 15). The letter did not mention the previous $3,906.51 demand, did not explain how the amount claimed had been calculated, and did not confirm the amount the creditor claimed was due and owing on the account. (Id. at ¶ 14). The letter stated in bold letters that "THIS IS AN ATTEMPT TO COLLECT A DEBT." (Id. at ¶ 16).

Plaintiff responded to this letter with another letter. (Id. at ¶ 17). This letter, dated November 25, 2009, asked for information on the debt and the loan. (Id. at ¶ 17). The parties dispute whether the letter demanded proof and verification of the debt. (Id. at ¶ 17; Defendant's Statement at ¶ 17). Plaintiff insists that the document served that purpose, but defendant argues that plaintiff simply asked for information on the sale of the vehicle and information from the bank about the amount paid for the truck. (Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 17; Defendant's Statement at ¶ 17). Defendant sent plaintiff a letter in response on January 6, 2010. (Plaintiff's Statement at ¶ 18). The letter contained plaintiff's loan history on the account. (Id.). Plaintiff insists that the loan history establishes that $1,631.41 remained on the account, a fact which defendant disputes. (Id.; Defendant's Statement at ¶ 18).

On December 11, 2009, defendant filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sklyands Bank in the Gloucester County, New Jersey Superior Court. (Id. at ¶ 19). Plaintiff lived in Hawley, Pennsylvania at the time. (Id. at ¶ 20). Plaintiff signed the promissory note that formed the basis of the lawsuit in Warren County, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 21). The promissory note contained a clause allowing the bank to institute suit in Warren County, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 22). On January 14, 2010, plaintiff moved the Gloucester County court to transfer the case to Warren County, New Jersey. (Id. at ¶ 23). Upon the parties' agreement, the Gloucester County court transferred the case to Warren County. (Id. at ¶ 25). The Gloucester County courthouse is one hundred fifty miles from plaintiff's home. (Id. at ¶ 24). The Warren County Courthouse is approximately fifty miles from plaintiff's home. (Id.).

Plaintiff's complaint, filed March 2, 2010, raises four causes of action. Count I alleges violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C.§ 1692. Count II alleges violations of the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, 73 P.S. § 2270, through the defendants' violations of the federal statute. Count III raises a state-law claim for invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion. Count IV claims violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. § 201-1.

Plaintiff then served the complaint on Defendant Donnelly. Donnelly filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 3), which the court denied. (Doc. 6). The parties then agreed to plaintiff's filing an amended complaint, which stated the same causes of action. The parties engaged in discovery. At the close of discovery, plaintiff filed the instant motion. The parties then briefed the issues, bringing the case to its present posture.


Plaintiff brings this claim pursuant to the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. § 1692, et seq. This court therefore has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article II of the United States Constitution.").

Legal Standard

Granting summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary ...

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