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Hall v. Southwest Credit Systems, L.P.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 1, 2019

MARY HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWEST CREDIT SYSTEMS, L.P., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BERYL A. HOWELL CHIEF JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Mary Hall, alleges that the defendant, Southwest Credit Systems, L.P., violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., by reporting to credit bureaus her purported debt without also communicating that she disputed the debt. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1. The defendant has moved for summary judgment, insisting that it had no reason to know that the reported debt was disputed and thus had no obligation to report it as such. See generally Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”). Yet, a jury reasonably could find that the defendant should have known of the dispute, and thus violated the FDCPA when notifying credit bureaus of the plaintiff's alleged debt without also alerting the bureaus to the dispute. Therefore, the defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied in substantial part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The defendant is a debt collector. See Def.'s Answer ¶ 4, ECF No. 4. On September 3, 2015, the defendant began an account for “Victoria Hall, ” who, based on information received from one of the defendant's customers-Comcast-supposedly had an unpaid debt of $570.36. Def.'s Mot., Ex. B, Account History at 1, ECF No. 9-2. According to information the defendant obtained from Comcast, Victoria Hall lived at 1903 15th Street NW, Apartment 21, Washington, D.C. 20009-3925. Id.; see also Def.'s Mot., Ex. C, Comcast Bills at 1, ECF No. 9-2. The defendant also received Victoria Hall's social security number. Account History at 1.

         Starting on November 2, 2015, the defendant began reporting Victoria Hall's alleged Comcast debt to credit bureaus. Id. at 2. Sometime later, the plaintiff discovered these communications, and, on October 6, 2016, she faxed the defendant a one-page letter with a subject line reading:

Re: My Southwest Credit Systems, L.P. Account Original Creditor: Comcast My Name: Mary Hall My SSN: XXX-XX-9052

         Def.'s Mot., Ex. D, Oct. 6, 2016 Ltr. (“Dispute Letter”) at 2, ECF No. 9-2. The text of the letter stated, in full, “To Whom It May Concern: I dispute the Southwest Credit Systems, L.P. collection account on my credit report that has a balance of $570.00 and an open date of 9/3/2015 and refuse to pay this account.” Id. “Mary Hall” signed the letter, which was sent on letterhead for:

Mary Hall 8712 Oakdale Street Fort Washington, MD 20744.

Id.

         The defendant received the Dispute Letter but did not locate an associated account. Def.'s Mot., Ex. A, Decl. of Jeff Hazard (“Def.'s Decl.”) ¶¶ 6-7, ECF No. 9-2.[1] Consequently, on October 17, 2016, November 14, 2016, and December 11, 2016, the defendant re-reported the alleged Comcast debt to credit bureaus without designating the debt as disputed. See Account History at 2.

         On December 22, 2016, the plaintiff's counsel sent the defendant a second letter, which attached a draft civil complaint alleging that the defendant violated the FDCPA by reporting a disputed debt to credit bureaus without marking the debt as disputed. See generally Def.'s Mot., Ex. E, Dec. 22, 2016 Ltr. (“Demand Letter), ECF No. 9-2. Like the Dispute Letter, both the Demand Letter and attached complaint identified the purported debtor as “Mary Hall” and Comcast as the creditor. Id. at 1-2. The draft complaint stated that Mary Hall “is a resident of the State of the District of Columbia, residing at 1733 33rd Place, S.E., Washington, DC 20009.” Id. at 2. No. other identifying information was provided.

         After receiving the Demand Letter and draft complaint on January 5, 2017, the defendant found the referenced debt. Def.'s Decl. ¶ 9. On January 10, 2017, the defendant marked that debt as disputed. Id.; see also Account History at 2.

         In December 2017, the plaintiff initiated this action, alleging that the defendant violated the FDCPA by reporting to credit bureaus her disputed Comcast debt without also communicating the dispute. See generally Compl. Following six months of discovery, the defendant now has moved for summary judgment. See generally Defs.' Mot.

         II. ...


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