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Eckel v. L.J. Ross Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

April 13, 2015

JEFFREY ECKEL, Plaintiff,
v.
L.J. ROSS ASSOCIATES, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#15] AND CANCELLING THE MAY 11, 2015 HEARING

GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court is Defendant L.J. Ross Associates, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on February 26, 2015. Plaintiff has failed to file a Response. The proof of service for Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment indicates that it was served on February 26, 2015. Local Rule 7.1(c)(1) states that “[a] respondent opposing a motion must file a response, including a brief and supporting documents then available.” E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(c)(1). Responses to dispositive motions “must be filed within 21 days after service of the motion.” E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(e)(1)(B). Accordingly, the response to Defendant’s present motion was due no later than March 23, 2015. Id.; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a) and 6(d). Since no Response has been filed, the present motion is unopposed. Upon review of the present unopposed motion, the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary. Accordingly, the Court will resolve the present motion on the submitted brief. See E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendant is a debt collection agency. Defendant has written policies and procedures in place that govern how its employees are to conduct themselves in the course of attempting to collect debts placed with Defendant for collection. See Def.’s Mot., Ex. A at ¶ 23. Defendant’s policies and procedures cover communications with consumers who are represented by an attorney. Id. at ¶ 28. Specifically, Defendant does not attempt to communicate with consumers that it knows to be represented by an attorney, by phone or in writing, unless the attorney consents to communication with the consumer. Id. at ¶ 29. If Defendant receives notification that a consumer is represented by an attorney, Defendant immediately updates its records to reflect such attorney representation. Id. at ¶ 30. Defendant also places the account at issue in an attorney disposition status-“3ATTY”-within its collection system to prevent all further communications. Id. at ¶ 31.

On November 18, 2013, the University of Michigan Health System referred four (4) past due medical accounts owed by Plaintiff to Defendant for collection. See Def.’s Mot., Ex. A. Defendant attempted to contact Plaintiff by phone that same day but did not reach him. On November 19, 2013, at approximately 11:41 a.m., Defendant received an inbound call from the phone number (419) 766-0050. Id. at ¶ 10. Consistent with Defendant’s internal procedures, Defendant’s employee attempted to verify the identity of the inbound caller before communicating with the caller regarding the past due medical bills. Id. at ¶ 11. The caller identified himself as “Jeffrey Eckel” but refused to provide Defendant’s employee with other details to confirm his identity. Id. at ¶ 12. Because Defendant’s employee could not confirm Plaintiff’s identity, the employee ended the call. Id. at ¶ 15.

Also on November 19, 2013, Defendant mailed its initial collection notice to Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 16. Less than two days later, on November 21, 2013, Defendant received a “Power of Attorney” letter from Credit Advocates Firm, a debt resolution company. Id. at ¶ 17. Defendant’s employee noted receipt of the letter in Plaintiff’s account record. Id. at ¶ 18.

Thereafter, on November 26, 2013, Defendant contacted Plaintiff by telephone, at approximately 8:06 a.m. Id. at ¶ 19. The following conversation transpired between Plaintiff and Defendant’s employee:

Plaintiff: Hello.
Employee: Hi. Can I speak with Jeffrey Eckel?
Plaintiff: Who am I speaking to?
Employee: My name is Taylor.
Plaintiff: And where you from?
Employee: LJ Ross.
Plaintiff: Hey. OK. They sent you a letter of attorney for the FDC . . . let’s see . . . its called the FDCPA [or] something like that and ...

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