United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
SHOHN L. TOOMBS, Plaintiff,
LJ ROSS ASSOCIATES, INC., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PARTIES' CROSS
MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is presently before the Court on cross motions for
summary judgment [docket entries 18 and 19]. Pursuant to E.D.
Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2), the Court shall decide these motions
without a hearing. The hearing scheduled for July 5, 2017, is
a debt collection practices and credit reporting case. In
February and March 2015, plaintiff was denied credit by a
number of lenders due to derogatory information on his credit
reports. Plaintiff complained to the credit reporting
agencies (“CRAs”) that defendant (acting as a
debt collector on behalf of University of Michigan Health
Systems (“UMHS”)) had reported two debts he
claimed he did not owe, whereupon these agencies reported the
dispute to defendant. Plaintiff also wrote directly to
defendant, stating it “has wrongfully placed a claim on
my credit reports to which I have no claim to [n]or any
obligation” and “demand[ing] that it be removed
[i]mmediately.” Pl.'s Summ. J. Br., Ex. H. When
deposed, defendant's president and CEO, Rebecca Roberts,
was unable to explain how defendant responded when notified
that plaintiff claimed he did not owe the reported debts.
Roberts 11-8-16 Dep. at 57. At a later deposition, Roberts
testified that defendant responded by verifying “the
information that we have in our system.
. . .
Mr. Toombs said this wasn't his debt. His name and his
address was there.” Roberts 1-27-17 Dep. at 28. In an
undated declaration, Def.'s Summ. J. Br., Ex. 1, Roberts
indicates that in response to the CRA's dispute notices,
defendant investigated each account and reviewed its
“business records” and the information provided
by the CRAs and by plaintiff. She also indicates that
defendant “reported the results of its
investigation” to the CRAs, although she does not state
what those results were.
April 2015, defendant sent plaintiff a letter demanding
payment on one of the UMHS accounts. In a letter to defendant
later the same month, plaintiff's counsel denied the debt
and requested validation. Pl.'s Summ. J. Br., Ex. R. At
some point thereafter, apparently in October 2015, defendant
told the CRAs “to remove information about these
accounts from [plaintiff's] credit report” and to
remove plaintiff as a “responsible party” on
these debts. Roberts 11-8-16 Dep. at 60-62.
debts in question are owed to UMHS for medical services
rendered to Caris Pearson in 2010-2012. Pl.'s Summ. J.
Br., Ex. C. Caris Pearson is Nikki Pearson's son and,
since 2011 when plaintiff and Nikki Pearson married,
plaintiff's step-son. Pl.'s Dep. at 15, 27. As Caris
Pearson was 22 years old in January 2017, id. at 27,
one can surmise that he was 15-17 years old in 2010-2012.
Before referring this matter to defendant for collection,
UMHS sent bills to Nikki Pearson and its bills appear to
identify her as the guarantor. See, e.g., Pl.'s
Summ. J. Br., Ex. C at 1, 2. Plaintiff's name appears
nowhere in UMHS's paperwork.
April 2012, defendant received a faxed letter purportedly
from plaintiff, which states:
This letter is being sent in response to the letter sent to
Caris Pearson. I the Parent of Caris will assume the letter
sent to him by this organization was done in error. No such
debt could exist, for Caris Pearson is a minor and
not legally capable of entering into any contracts or binding
agreements what so ever. Upon receipt of this letter this
organization and any representatives there of is asked to
seize all communication with Caris and comply with all laws
associated with the fair debt collection practice
Any further communication attempts from this organization and
or it representatives will be kept as proof and reported to
the proper authorities to be enforced and or legal action
Summ. J. Br., Ex. G. Based solely on this letter, which
plaintiff denies having sent or knowing anything about,
see Pl.'s Dep. at 76, defendant changed its
records to indicate that plaintiff was a “responsible
party” for these debts. Roberts 1-27-17 Dep. at 18-21,
40. Roberts also testified that in response to this letter
defendant sent plaintiff a “validation notice . . .
giv[ing] the opportunity for the responsible party to dispute
or . . . request validation of the debt, ” but
defendant does not have a copy of this letter. Id.
at 38-40. She also testified that plaintiff did not respond.
Id. at 41-42.
is asserting claims in this matter under the Fair Credit
Reporting Act (“FCRA”), the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (“FDCPA”), and the Michigan Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act (“MFDCPA”).
Specifically, plaintiff claims defendant violated his rights
under the FCRA, either negligently or willfully, by failing
to conduct a reasonable investigation once he and the CRAs
notified defendant that he disputed the UMHS debts and by
failing to promptly correct or delete the accounts; and that
defendant violated his rights under the FDCPA and the MFDCPA
by falsely representing that he owed the debt in question,
communicating false information to the CRAs, failing to
provide plaintiff with required notices, and failing to
properly validate the debts.
parties seek summary judgment on all of these claims. The
legal standards governing these motions are well known:
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate
“if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” “[T]he mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine
dispute as to any material fact.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)
(emphasis in original). Viewing the evidence in the light
most favorable to the opposing party, summary judgment may be
granted only if the evidence is so one-sided that a
reasonable fact-finder could not find for the opposing party.
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50; Street v. J.C.
Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1478-80 (6th Cir.
1989). In other words, “[a] material issue of fact
exists where a reasonable jury, viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, could return a
verdict for that party.” Vollrath v.
Georgia-Pacific Corp., 899 F.2d 533, 534 (6th Cir.
1990). “The pivotal question is whether the party
bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as
to each element of its case.” Hartsel v. Keys,
87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996).
Skrelja v. State Auto. Mut. Ins. Co., No.
15-CV-12460, 2016 WL 3385093, at *2 (E.D. Mich. June ...