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Jennifer Croftcheck v. Accounts Recovery Bureau

April 20, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


In this case, plaintiff Jennifer Croftcheck alleges that defendant Accounts Recovery Bureau, Inc. (ARB), a debt-collection agency, sent her a letter on June 3, 2011, that violated several provisions of the the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 to 1692p. (See generally Docs. 1, 1-2.) Before the court is ARB's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20), wherein ARB seeks judgment in its favor on all claims. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant ARB's motion.

I. Background

The facts of this case are undisputed.*fn1 On January 3, 2011, Pinnacle Health Hospitals referred Croftcheck's account with them to ARB for collection. (Doc. 21, at 1 ¶ 1.) ARB sent Croftcheck an initial written communication that same day, which informed Croftcheck of her right to dispute the debt or seek its validation:

Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid. If you [dispute this debt], this office will obtain judgment or verification. If you request this office in writing within 30 days after receiving this notice, this office will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor. (Id. at 1 ¶¶ 2--3.) Croftcheck's written response three weeks later informed ARB that her letter was "notice that your claims are disputed and that validation is requested." (Id. at 2 ¶¶ 4--5.) She advised ARB that "phone calls to me are inconvenient and that your communication with me should be done in writing." (Id. at 2 ¶ 5.)

Following receipt of Croftcheck's validation request, ARB sent Pinnacle Health Hospital's itemized bill to her on February 24, 2011. (Id. at 2 ¶ 6.) ARB received no further communication from her. (Id. at 2 ¶¶ 7--8.)

Months went by without any contact between the parties. On June 3, 2011, ARB sent its final correspondence to Croftcheck, which stated:

Our records indicate that you refuse to pay the above referenced balance.

Please notify this office if you can not pay this balance. You may qualify for relief from debt. We will be happy to advise you of the eligibility requirements. (Id. at 2 ¶¶ 10--11.) As of the time ARB sent this letter, Croftcheck had neither made payments on the account nor notified ARB that she had agreed to make any payments. (Id. at 3 ¶¶ 12--13.)

Shortly thereafter, on June 28, 2011, Croftcheck initiated this action by filing a complaint against ARB, alleging that the June 3, 2011, letter had violated at least five provisions of the FDCPA. (Doc. 1, ¶ 12.) The complaint was filed as a putative class action, but Croftcheck's motion for class certification was denied on November 29, 2011, following hearing. (Docs. 12--15 (motion and briefing); Doc. 19 (denial order).) ARB filed the instant motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20) on December 30, 2011, which is now fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Through summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any material fact" and as to which a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The burden of proof is upon the nonmoving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings," in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F. Supp. 2d at 315.

III. Discussion

A. General principles of the FDCPA and its interpreting case law

Enacted in 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as its name implies, was passed into law with the intention of curbing the "abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices" that debt collectors commonly employed. 15 U.S.C. ยง 1692(a). The FDCPA is meant both to protect consumers from abusive debt-collection practices and to ensure that "those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not ...

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