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Beverly Shand-Pistilli v. Professional Account Services

June 16, 2011

BEVERLY SHAND-PISTILLI
v.
PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNT SERVICES, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Beverly Shand-Pistilli alleges that defendant Professional Account Services, Inc. violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. Presently before me are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, I will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment and deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Defendant is the debt collection agency that was responsible for collecting a $673.31 debt plaintiff owed to Pottstown Medical Center. Defendant first attempted to contact plaintiff regarding her debt by telephoning her at home at 1:05 pm*fn1 on January 12, 2010. Bennett Decl. at ¶ 22.*fn2 Defendant's phone call was answered by an answering machine and defendant's representative chose not to leave a message. Id. On the same day, defendant mailed to plaintiff's home a letter informing her that her Pottstown Medical Center account "had been placed with [defendant] for collection." See Letter from defendant to plaintiff (Jan. 12, 2010) (Am. Compl. Ex. A). Defendant telephoned plaintiff's home again on January 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm. See Bennett Decl. at ¶ 23. The call was answered by an answering machine and defendant's representative did not leave a message. Id. The same sequence of events occurred on January 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm. Id. at ¶ 24.

On January 20, 2010 at 11:20 pm, plaintiff called defendant and spoke with a representative named Heather who informed her at the outset that "[t]his communication is from a debt collector and is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be for that purpose." Id. at ¶ 25; Pl.'s Dep. 57:19-22 (Nov. 2, 2010). Plaintiff informed Heather that she had "been in contact with the hospital ever since [she] started getting these bills. And they assured [her] that it would not go to collection." Id. at 58:4-8. Heather responded "[w]e don't report to the credit bureau. We're just billing for the hospital." Id. at 58:9-11. Later in the conversation, plaintiff stated "[w]ell I'm not paying it. That's what I'm saying. This is not my responsibility." Id. at 60:2-4. The conversation concluded after plaintiff asserted that she would contact her insurance company to ensure that it had not mistakenly billed her. Id. at 62:9-14. Plaintiff did not at any time during the conversation ask defendant not to attempt to contact her at home. Bennett Decl. ¶ 28.

Plaintiff called defendant back the next day and spoke with a representative named Monica. Pl.'s Dep. 64:16-17. Monica informed plaintiff at the beginning of the conversation that "[t]his communication is from a debt collector and is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose." Id. at 65:12-15. Plaintiff informed Monica that she had spoken to her doctor, who had assured her that he would call the insurance company and address the outstanding balance on her account. Id. at 66:6-12. Apparently, one of the tests that the doctor had ordered was not covered by plaintiff's insurance. Id. at 70:21-24. Monica informed plaintiff that the doctor would have "to change his coding" and "resubmit to [plaintiff's] insurance." Id. at 68:12-18. Monica offered to resubmit the claim to the insurance company if the doctor did not want to. Id. at 68:18-20. She reiterated, however, that plaintiff would have to convince the doctor to change his coding because that was not something that defendant had the power to do. Id. at 68: 20-22. Monica also informed plaintiff that while she was waiting for her doctor to make the necessary changes she should attempt to keep her account in good standing by making payments to defendant. Id. at 71:23-72:2. Monica assured plaintiff that if she made a payment and then her insurance later also made a payment, plaintiff would be reimbursed for whatever overpayment resulted. Id. at 72:2-5. Monica also agreed to put plaintiff's account "on hold" for ten days. Id. at 72:10-11. Monica then verified plaintiff's contact information, place of employment and marital status and informed plaintiff that if she was unable to resolve the issue within ten days "[defendant] may want you to pay something on you bill just to give you another 30 days . . . ." Id. at 73:10-13. Plaintiff did not request that defendant not attempt to contact her at home. Bennett Decl. ¶ 32; Pl.'s Dep. 74:12-15.

On January 27, 2010, defendant mailed a letter to plaintiff which informed her that defendant had "verified [her] employment with: Norristown [State] Hospital . . . ." See Letter from defendant to plaintiff (Am. Compl. Ex. B). The letter further asserted that "current employment indicates [plaintiff has] the ability to make suitable arrangements to pay this debt." Id.

Defendant telephoned plaintiff on March 1, 2010 at 8:17 am. Bennet Decl. ¶ 37. This call was answered by an answering machine and defendant did not leave a message. Id. Two days later, Rosanne, a representative of defendant, telephoned plaintiff. Id. at 38. This time, plaintiff answered. Id. Rosanne immediately informed plaintiff that the phone call was "from a debt collector [and was] an attempt to collect a debt." Pl.'s Dep. 77:11-13. Following Rosanne's disclaimer, the following conversation occurred:

Plaintiff: Okay, I'm not interested in these solicitation calls.

Rosanne: Ma'am, it's not a solicitation call.

Plaintiff: I'm going to call my lawyer and let him know that you are harassing me. Rosanne: Ma'am, I have not harassed you.

Plaintiff: Yes, you are. I'm going to call the lawyer and let him know.

Rosanne: Go ahead. That's fine. Thank you.

Id. at 77:24-78:13. Plaintiff conceded that Rosanne did not abuse her during the phone call. Id. at 79:3-5. However, plaintiff testified that she viewed the phone call itself as harassment. Id. at 79:6-10.

Defendant telephoned plaintiff again on March 10, 2010 at 8:34 am. Bennett Decl. ¶ 42. The call was answered by an answering machine and defendant's representative declined to leave a message. Id. This sequence of events occurred again on March 16, 2010 at 8:54 am, id. at ¶ 43, March 18, ...


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