Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ebner v. Merchants & Medical Credit Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2017

SUSAN EBNER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MERCHANTS & MEDICAL CREDIT CORP., et al., Defendant .

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Plaintiff Susan Ebner, through her proposed class counsel, and Defendant Merchants & Medical Credit Corporation (“MMCC”), have negotiated and agreed to a settlement of this class action. On June 15, 2016 the Court preliminarily approved that settlement. (ECF No. 21.) Class counsel has moved for final approval of the settlement and for attorneys' fees and costs. (ECF No. 32.) For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the motion.

         I.

         MMCC mailed Ebner debt collection letters in June of 2014 in glassine window envelopes. (Compl. ¶¶ 17, 24.) Her account number was visible through the window. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 26.) Ebner filed a class action lawsuit on December 4, 2014, alleging that by disclosing her account number on the face of the envelope, MMCC violated 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). (ECF No. 1.) Section 1692(f)(8) provides that “using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector's address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails” is an “unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8). In Douglass v. Convergent Outsourcing, 765 F.3d 299 (3d Cir. 2014), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals explained that the “plain language of § 1692f(8) does not permit [a debt collector's] envelope to display an account number. Id. at 303.

         On March 21, 2016 Ebner filed a motion for approval of a class settlement and class certification. (ECF No. 17.) The Court held a hearing on June 14, 2016 and entered an order the next day preliminarily approving the class action settlement and directing notice to the class. (ECF No. 21.) The proposed class was defined as “[a]ll persons located in (i) the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, (ii) the State of New Jersey, or (iii) the State of Delaware according to their last known address . . . from December 4, 2013 through August 1, 2015 . . . who received one or more letters from MMCC seeking to collect a consumer debt for which the . . . account number was visible through the glassine window of the envelope.” (Id. at 2.)

         On September 15, 2016 MMCC moved to continue the final approval hearing and amend the Court's preliminary order approving the class action settlement. (ECF No. 25.) MMCC's motion explained that the number of settlement class members was smaller than initially thought at the time of the Court's preliminary order. MMCC asked for more time to meet the deadlines in the Court's order. Plaintiffs did not oppose this motion. The Court granted MMCC's motion on September 30, 2016. (ECF No. 28.) On December 29, 2016 Ebner filed a motion for final approval of settlement. (ECF No. 31.) The Court held a final approval hearing on January 12, 2017. (ECF No. 34.)

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) requires court approval of class action settlements. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e)(2). Approval is appropriate “only after a hearing and on finding that it is fair, reasonable, and adequate.” Id. The Court must (1) determine if the requirements for class certification under Rule 23(a) and (b) are satisfied; (2) assess whether notice to proposed class was adequate; and (3) evaluate if the proposed settlement is fair under Rule 23(e). See In re Nat'l Football League Players Concussion Injury Litig., 775 F.3d 570, 581 (3d Cir. 2014).

         A: Whether Class Certification is Proper

         Rule 23(a) requires Plaintiffs to demonstrate that: “(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” Fed R. Civ. P. 23(a). Rule 23(b)(3), under which Plaintiffs seek class certification, requires that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). For the reasons that follow, the proposed class may be certified because the Plaintiffs have demonstrated compliance with Rule 23(a) and 23(b)(3)'s requirements.

         i. Rule 23(a) Factors

         1. Numerosity

         Rule 23(a)(1) requires that the class be “so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). There is no minimum number of plaintiffs required to satisfy this requirement; a proposed class exceeding 40 members is sufficient. Stewart v. Abraham, 275 F.3d 220, 226-27 (3d Cir. 2001). Undisputed records in this case indicate that MMCC sent similar letters to approximately 4, 802 individuals between December 3, 2013 and August 1, 2015. (Pl.'s Mot., at 7, ECF No. 31-1.)

         2. Commonality

         Rule 23(a)(2) mandates the showing of “questions of law or fact common to the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(2). This element requires that plaintiffs “share at least one question of fact or law with the grievances of the prospective class.” In re Warfarin Sodium Antitrust Litig., 391 F.3d 516, 527-28 (3d Cir. 2004). “Generally, courts have held that the commonality requirement is satisfied in FDCPA actions when the defendants have engaged in standardized conduct towards members of the proposed class by mailing them allegedly illegal form letters or documents.” Good v. Nationwide Credit, Inc., 314 F.R.D. 141, 151-52 (E.D. Pa. 2016). Here, MMC engaged in standardized conduct by sending similar letters to all members of the proposed class. (Pl.'s Mot., at 8.) The common question of fact is whether account numbers were visible through envelope windows. The common question of law is whether MMCC's conduct violates § 1692f(8).

         3. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.