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Estate of Laboy v. Apex Asset Management, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 29, 2019

ESTATE OF JULIO LABOY, Plaintiff,
v.
APEX ASSET MANAGEMENT, LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION

          JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion will be denied and Plaintiff will be directed to show cause under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(f)(1) why summary judgment should not be entered in favor of Defendant.

         Background

         Plaintiff Estate of Julio LaBoy alleges that Defendant Apex Asset Management, LLC violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(8), in its efforts to collect an outstanding debt from Plaintiff because Defendant allegedly failed to protect Plaintiff's financial privacy with regard to symbols of debt collection activity on envelopes.

         Defendant operates as a debt collector within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. § 1692(a)(6). Defendant drafted a collection letter dated February 2, 2018 to collect Plaintiff's outstanding debt related to an invoice from Virtua Health System. The letter was mailed in a glassine-windowed envelope. Plaintiff alleges that a five-digit number and a twenty-three-digit number, the latter containing the Plaintiff's entire account number, were visible through the glassine window of the envelope in which the correspondence was mailed. A second collection letter dated March 6, 2018 and a third dated March 7, 2018 also were mailed in glassine envelopes which each allegedly exposed a five-digit number and a twenty-three-digit number containing the Plaintiff's account number. Defendant argues that the twenty-three-digit number containing Plaintiff's account number could not have been visible through the glassine window of the sealed envelope. Defendant admits that a five-digit number was visible through the glassine window in each case but argues that those numbers have no connection to Plaintiff's account number and provide no personal or confidential identifying information.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n.1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a). Thus, the Court will enter summary judgment in favor of a movant who shows that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and supports the showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1)(A).

         An issue is “genuine” if supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is “material” if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Maidenbaum v. Bally's Park Place, Inc., 870 F.Supp. 1254, 1258 (D.N.J. 1994). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. “A nonmoving party may not ‘rest upon mere allegations, general denials or . . . vague statements . . . .'” Trap Rock Indus., Inc. v. Local 825, Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, 982 F.2d 884, 890 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Quiroga v. Hasbro, Inc., 934 F.2d 497, 500 (3d Cir. 1991)). Indeed,

the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.

Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. That is, the movant can support the assertion that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed by showing that “an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the [alleged dispute of] fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2).

         In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

         FDCPA

         Congress enacted the FDCPA “to eliminate abusive debt collection practices, to ensure that debt collectors who abstain from such practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and to promote consistent state action to protect consumers.” Jerman v. Carlisle, McNellie, Rini, Kramer & Ulrich LPA, 559 U.S. 573, 577 (2010) (citing 15 U.S.C. § 1692(e)). The FDCPA is remedial legislation and “must be broadly construed in order to give full effect to these purposes.” Douglass v. ...


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