United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
OPINION Doc. Nos. 19, 20
SCHNEIDER United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on the “Motion for Summary
Judgment” [Doc. No. 19] filed by defendant Financial
Recoveries. Also before the Court is the “Motion for
Summary Judgment as to Count I” [Doc. No. 20] filed by
plaintiff Estate of Domenic Caruso. The Court has received
plaintiff's opposition [Doc. No. 21] and defendant's
opposition [Doc. No. 22] to the respective motions. Defendant
and plaintiff seek summary judgment on all claims in this
putative class action. The Court exercises its discretion to
decide the parties' motions without oral argument.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L. Civ. R. 78.1. Pursuant 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court to hear the case. [Doc. No. 14].
For the reasons to be discussed, defendant's motion will
be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; plaintiff's motion
will be DENIED.
brings this putative class action for alleged violations of
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1682
et seq. (“FDCPA”), which prohibits debt
collectors from engaging in abusive, deceptive and unfair
practices. Compl. ¶ 1 [Doc. No. 1]. The original debt in
this action arose from the decedent Domenic Caruso's
death at Kennedy University Hospital (“Kennedy”)
on June 25, 2013 after suffering a cardiac arrest.
See Certificate of Death, Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A
[Doc. No. 21-1]. The decedent's June 23 death at Kennedy
resulted in a medical bill totaling $254.24 which Kennedy
forwarded to plaintiff. The record does not specifically
indicate to whom the bill was addressed. In response to the
bill, plaintiff's counsel wrote Kennedy on October 2,
2013 disputing the alleged debt, demanding validation of the
alleged debt, and advising that plaintiff was represented by
counsel. Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. B; Pl.'s Statement of
Material Facts (“SMF”) ¶ 2 [Doc. No. 20-2].
February 21, 2014, defendant received the decedent's
account for collection from Kennedy. Defendant placed a
validation letter for the account on file to be mailed by a
third-party mail vendor, RevSpring, Inc.
(“RevSpring”). On the same day, defendant
received confirmation from RevSpring that the February 21,
2014 validation letter was mailed to “Mr.
Caurso.” Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 34-36 [Doc. No.
19-1]. Unfortunately, it is not known to what address the
letter was mailed. The record does not include the February
21, 2014 letter because it no longer exists. According to
defendant, RevSpring only retains letters sent to debtors for
one year and, thus, RevSpring retained the letter until
February 2015 or about nine (9) months prior to plaintiff
commencing this suit. Id. ¶¶ 26-28.
argues it never received the February 21, 2014 validation
letter and that defendant's October 6, 2015 letter sent
to plaintiff's counsel was the first communication from
defendant regarding the alleged debt. Compl. ¶ 10;
Pl.'s SMF ¶ 7. The October 6, 2015 letter mailed to
plaintiff's counsel was in an envelope with a glassine
window that showed counsel's mailing address. Also
visible through the glassine window was a barcode and 9-digit
number above the address. According to plaintiff, the barcode
and number contained information unique to the decedent and
his alleged debt owed to Kennedy. Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.
The substance of the October 6, 2015 letter states:
Fin Rec Acct#: 86476026
Balance Due: $254.24
Dear Sir or Madam:
As you know, we are representing Kennedy Health and are
attempting to collect an amount of $254.24 from your client.
Please provide us with an updated status of the account. If
suit has been filed, please indicate against whom.
If you have any questions, please call 800-705-9068 and speak
with one of our representatives.
This Company is a debt collector. We are attempting to
collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for
Def.'s Ex. A [Doc. No. 19-3]. Plaintiff alleges the
October 6, 2015 letter was the first communication from
defendant regarding the alleged debt and did not contain the
requisite statements in violation of the FDCPA. Compl. ¶
defendant had not posted the requisite bond pursuant to
N.J.S.A. 45:18-1, plaintiff also alleges defendant was not
lawfully permitted to collect consumer debts in New Jersey in
violation of the FDCPA. Id. ¶ 24. On January
24, 2016, defendant filed the requisite bond with the New
Jersey Department of Treasury. Def.'s Attach. 1 [Doc. No.
November 6, 2015, plaintiff commenced this putative class
action alleging defendant violated the FDCPA by: (1) using
prohibited language or symbol on the envelope of the October
6, 2015 letter in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8); (2)
failing to include the requisite statements in the October 6,
2015 letter in violation of §§ 1692g(a)(3)-(5); and
(3) failing to post the requisite bond with the New Jersey
Department of Treasury pursuant to N.J.S.A. 45:18-1. See
Rule 16 conference was held on July 11, 2016. The Court
deferred discovery as to class certification until
defendant's motion for summary judgment is decided and
Ordered the parties to conduct discovery only as to the
merits of plaintiff's complaint. July 11, 2016 Scheduling
Order [Doc. No. 16]. Thereafter the parties filed their
motions. [Doc. Nos. 19, 20].