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Ridley v. MRS BPO, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 18, 2019

FATIMA RIDLEY, individually, and on behalf of all other similarly situated consumers, Plaintiff,
v.
MRS BPO, LLC, Defendant.

          DANIEL ZEMEL ZEMEL LAW LLC On Behalf of Plaintiff Fatima Ridley.

          ALEKSANDER P. POWIETRZYNSKI WINSTON & WINSTON PC On Behalf of Defendant MRS BPO, LLC.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         In this putative class action, Plaintiff Fatima Ridley (“Plaintiff”) alleges that Defendant MRS BPO, LLC (“Defendant”) violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”) when it incorrectly identified the original creditor on “trade lines”[1] placed on Plaintiff's credit report. Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for class certification (the “Motion”). (ECF No. 17). Plaintiff's Motion will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a one-count putative class action complaint against Defendant for allegedly violating the FDCPA (the “Complaint”). (ECF No. 1). The facts underlying the Complaint are relatively straightforward.

         At some unspecified time, Plaintiff incurred a private student loan debt. (ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) at ¶6). In furtherance of its debt collection efforts, Defendant, a debt collector, placed a trade line[2] on Plaintiff's credit report in October 2017, incorrectly listing Transworld Systems Inc. (“Transworld” or “TSI”) as the purported original creditor. (Compl. at ¶¶14-18). The parties appear to agree that Transworld is not, in fact, the original creditor for Plaintiff's debt, and that Defendant “improperly reported TSI in some cases instead of the name that . . . should have been [reported].” (ECF No. 30-1 (“Meyer Dep.”) at 1T22:1-5); see (ECF No. 27 (“Def. Br.”) at 1) (“Transworld retained Defendant to collect a student loan Plaintiff owed to NCSLT [(National Collegiate Student Loans Trust)]”). In light of Defendant's error, Plaintiff alleges that she was unsure whether payment was required and that the proverbial “least sophisticated debtor” would be equally confused. (Compl. at ¶19).

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant made similar errors affecting other debtors and asks this Court to certify the following class: “[a]ll consumers with a Pennsylvania address for whom Defendant reported an incorrect original creditor to the credit reporting agencies for personal, household, or family debts originating within one year prior to the filing of this complaint.”[3] (Compl. at ¶22).

         Defendant offered the following discovery response relevant to determining whether class certification would be appropriate:

INTERROGATORY NO. 3: State the number of persons, their full names and full addresses of all persons within the State of Pennsylvania for whom Defendant reported an incorrect original creditor to the credit reporting agencies for personal, household, or family debts originating within the period of time beginning one year prior to the filing of this initial action and end 21 days after the service of the initial complaint.
ANSWER: Defendant objects. . . . Notwithstanding and without waiving these objections, Defendant estimates that there are 73 individuals for whom Defendant furnished information to a consumer reporting agency suggesting that Transworld Systems Inc. was the creditor of an account within the described time period.

(ECF No. 17-5 at ¶3).

         Also before the Court is a portion of Michael Meyer's (“Meyer”) deposition.[4] The parties elected to submit only narrow portions of Meyer's deposition transcript for the Court's review, and the portions submitted fail to fully clarify Meyer's role in this action. Plaintiff represents in her briefing that Meyer testified as Defendant's disputed. Meyer's deposition includes the following testimony:

Q. Do you know what name it was and what name it should have been?
A. I believe we improperly reported TSI in some cases instead of the name that it should have been.
Q. Okay. Over the course of the litigation, I have asked MRS to explain or to identify the number of people this happened to. Were you a part of that investigation?
A. Recently, yes.
Q. And do you know how many people were affected by this interface issue?
A. It's not an interface issue.
Q. What would you call it?
A. I would call it a client code setting.
Q. Okay. Do you know how many people were affected by the client code setting?
A. Yes.
Q. And how many people were affected?
A. 94.
Q. And how did you come to that determination?
A. We looked at the period of time. We looked at the specific criteria based upon the suit. And based upon those criteria, we looked at various queries and we had to go back in time through all of the reporting files that we have received to undertake and examine which ones they were.
Q. And how do you identify in the course of your investigation that one of these 94 people belong in this list?
A. Based on the criteria that we were provided in the suit based on the class action, we looked at what constituted the class.
Q. Okay. Do you collect for TSI debts outside of Pennsylvania?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you look to see whether consumers outside of Pennsylvania have also been affected by the client code setting issue?
A. No.
Q. Is it possible today that the client code setting that affected Miss Ridley is affecting consumers in different states outside of Pennsylvania?
A. During that time period, yes.

(Meyer Dep. at 1T22:1-5; 1T40:9 to 1T41:25).

         Plaintiff's Motion is fully briefed. See (ECF No. 17). Defendant has opposed. (ECF No. 27). As such, the Motion is ripe for adjudication.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         This Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(d).

         II. Class Certification: Standard and Analysis

         “The class action is ‘an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only.'” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 348, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 180 L.Ed.2d 374 (2011) (quoting Califano v. Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 700-01, 99 S.Ct. 2545, 61 L.Ed.2d 176 (1979)). In order to justify a departure from the general rule that each litigant proceeds with their own action, “a class representative must be part of the class and possess the same interest and suffer the same injury as the class members.” Id. at 348-49 (quoting East Tex. Motor Freight System, Inc. v. Rodriguez, 431 U.S. 395, 403, 97 S.Ct. 1891, 52 L.Ed.2d 453 (1977)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Every putative class action must satisfy the four requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a): numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. City Select Auto Sales, Inc. v. BMW Bank of N. Am., Inc., 867 F.3d 434, 438 (3d Cir. 2017) (citing Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 613, 117 S.Ct. 2231, ...


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