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Csircsu v. Williams & Fudge, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 24, 2017

Jessica Csircsu Plaintiff
v.
Williams & Fudge, Inc. Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S PARTIAL MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Sean F. Cox United States District Judge

         This action is brought pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Michigan Collection Practices Act (“MCPA”). Currently before the Court is Defendant's “Partial Motion for Summary Judgment.” (Doc. #13, Def.'s Br.). Defendant argues that the bona fide error defense applies to this case and precludes liability as to the FDCPA violations alleged by Plaintiff. Plaintiff opposes the motion. (Doc. # 18, Pl.'s Resp.).

         The Court finds that the issues have been adequately presented in the parties' briefs and that oral argument would not significantly aid in the decisional process. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f). The Court therefore orders that the motion will be decided upon the briefs. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT Defendant's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         This action arises out of Plaintiff Jessica Csircsu's (“Plaintiff”) failure to pay a balance and Defendants' efforts to collect on the defaulted balance. The following facts, taken in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, are relatively straight forward and undisputed by the parties.

         Defendant Williams & Fudge, Inc. (“Defendant”) is a corporation that specializes in the recovery of accounts associated with colleges and universities. (Doc. # 14, Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 3; Doc. # 19, Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 3). When an account is placed with Defendant, it is Defendant's policy and procedure to link that account to consumers via the consumer's social security number. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 11; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 11).

         On May 31, 2011, an account for Plaintiff Jessica Csircsu was placed for collection with Defendant by Education Management II, LLC (“EMII”). The account stated that Plaintiff owed a debt to the Art Institute of Michigan. (Id.). When Plaintiff's account was placed, EMII indicated that the social security number associated with the consumer began with “372.” (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 4; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 4).[1]

         On or about March 13, 2012, Defendant sent a collection notice to Plaintiff. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 5; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff responded to Defendant by sending two letters, dated March 22, 2012, disputing the debt and requesting Defendant to cease all communication and collection efforts. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 6; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 6).

         Defendant received Plaintiff's letters on March 26, 2012 via facsimile and on March 27, 2016 via first class mail. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7; Def.'s Ex. 1 at ¶ 12). Upon receipt, Defendant made a notation on Plaintiff's account which reflected an account status code change from “40" (active collections) to “46" (cease and desist or no contact). (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7; Def.'s Ex. 1 at ¶ 12). Defendant subsequently ceased all collection efforts on Plaintiff's account. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 7).

         On or about July 7, 2015, EMII placed Plaintiff's account with Defendant for collection again. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 9; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 9). When EMII placed the account with Defendant for the second time, EMII listed Plaintiff's social security number as beginning with “373.” (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 10; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 10). Because EMII provided a different social security number when it placed the account, Defendant's system treated the account as “newly placed” and associated it with a new consumer. (Def.'s Ex. 1 at ¶ 20).

         On or about July 8, 2015, Defendant sent a collection notice to Plaintiff. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 13; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff responded by sending two letters, dated July 30, 2015, disputing the debt and requesting Defendant to cease all communication and collection efforts. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 14; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 14). Defendant received Plaintiff's letters on August 7, 2015. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 15; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 15). Defendant subsequently adjusted Plaintiff's account code to cease collection efforts and it ceased collecting on the account. (Def.'s Stmt. at ¶ 15; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 15).

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff originally brought this case in the General Court for the 21st Judicial District in Wayne County, Michigan. On October 28, 2015, Defendant removed this action on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (Doc. #1).

         Plaintiff's complaint asserts claims under the FDCPA (Count I) and the MCPA (Count II). Plaintiff specifically alleges that Defendant violated the following provisions of the FDCPA: 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A); 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c); and 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(b). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the following provisions of the MCPA: M.C.L. § 445.525(e); and M.C.L. § 445.252(q). Plaintiff seeks actual, statutory and treble damages along with statutory costs and attorney fees.

         Defendant filed the instant partial motion for summary judgment on August 15, 2016. (Def.'s Br.). In it, Defendant argues that it is entitled to the bona fide error defense and is ...


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