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Cooper v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC

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

September 15, 2017

WILLIAM S. COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
PORTFOLIO RECOVERY ASSOCIATES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, (DOC. 9) AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 19)

          AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., case. Plaintiff William Cooper (“Cooper”), a Michigan resident, is suing Defendant Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (“PRA”), a Virginia company, for attempting to collect a debt from him in a manner that violated the FDCPA, the Michigan Occupational Code (“MOC”), M.C.L. §339.915(e), the Michigan Collection Practices Act (“MCPA”), M.C.L. § 445.251 et seq., and Michigan tort law. Cooper seeks actual damages, FDCPA statutory damages of $1000, the greater of MOC treble damages or $150, damages for fraud, costs and attorney's fees, and punitive damages in excess of $10, 000, 000.

         PRA has moved for summary judgment or dismissal (Doc. 9), to which Cooper has responded and cross-motioned for summary judgment on liability (Doc. 19). Along with its motion for summary judgment, PRA filed a statement of material facts not in dispute (Doc. 10). Cooper did not file a response statement of facts, so PRA independently filed a joint statement of material facts not in dispute (Doc. 22). This document does not represent a concurrence between the parties, but only reflects the facts that PRA says Cooper did not refute in his other papers. Just before oral argument, Cooper filed a response statement of facts (Doc. 26).

         For the reasons that follow, PRAs motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and Cooper's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Initial Contact and First Verification Request

         On July 13, 2015, Cooper received a debt collection letter from PRA indicating that Cooper owed $3, 177.19 to PRA (Doc. 1, Exhibit 1). The letter named U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) as the original creditor. Cooper wrote to PRA in response requesting that PRA verify the debt through various means, including by providing a copy of the written agreement that created the obligation between Cooper and U.S. Bank (Doc. 1, Exhibit 2).

         On August 10, 2015, PRA responded to Cooper by letter with verification information including:

. Cooper's first and last name, middle initial, and suffix “2”;
. The last four digits of Cooper's social security number;
. Account number ending in 0104;
. Name of the original creditor as U.S. Bank;
. Date the account was opened with U.S. Bank as January 1, 2008;
. Date of sale of the account from U.S. Bank to PRA as June 17, 2015;
. Balance at time of sale as $3, 177.19; and
. A statement that no interest or fees had been charged since the date of sale.

(Doc. 10, Exhibit 2). The letter stated that Cooper should contact PRA if he wanted to receive a history of payments that had been made since PRA acquired the account. The letter did not include a copy of the original agreement between Cooper and U.S. Bank as Cooper requested in his first response letter (Doc. 1, Exhibit 2). It did, however, include an identity theft affidavit that Cooper could have completed and returned in order to dispute that the debt belonged to him. Cooper says he did not return this affidavit because he did not want to provide personal information to PRA without further assurance of PRAs trustworthiness and the validity of the debt (Doc. 19 at 10).

         B. Second Verification Request

         On the same day, Cooper sent PRA a second letter requesting verification of the $3, 177.19 debt (Doc. 1, Exhibit 4).[1] This letter stated that PRA had contacted Cooper by phone three times regarding the debt since receiving his request for verification on July 27, 2015, which Cooper specifically claimed was a violation of the FDCPA[2] Cooper requested that PRA not call him again before verifying the debt. Cooper then listed the methods by which PRA should verify the debt, many of which were the same as in Cooper's first response letter except that he bolded and underlined requests for a copy of the original U.S. Bank agreement and a copy of the last billing statement that U.S. Bank sent to him.

         PRA sent a letter to Cooper three days later, stating that the investigation of the dispute was complete and enclosing three Comerica Bank credit card statements as additional verification of the debt (Doc. 10, Exhibit 3). The first statement, dated April 2013, displayed a payment of $52.00. The second statement, dated January 2014, displayed a total balance of $3, 177.19. The third statement, dated February 2014, displayed that the account was being charged off. PRA's letter did not explain the connection between Comerica Bank and U.S. Bank.

         On August 20, 2015, PRA sent Cooper two letters. The first was a verification letter (Doc. 10, Exhibit 4) identical to the verification letter PRA sent on August 10, 2015 (Doc. 10, Exhibit 2). The second was a letter stating that because PRA had already responded to “a previous dispute substantially the same as your present dispute, ” it would conduct no further investigation into Cooper's dispute (Doc. 1, Exhibit 6-2).

         C. Third Verification Request

         Shortly afterward, Cooper sent a letter to PRA requesting verification of the debt for the third time, stating that the information PRA had provided in its previous responses was insufficient to prove the validity of the debt (Doc. 1, Exhibit 5). Cooper emphasized that the only sufficient proof would be a copy of the original U.S. Bank contract that created the debt and one year of credit card statements.

         On July 15, 2016, PRA sent to Cooper a letter (Doc. 1, Exhibit 6-1) identical to one sent on August 20, 2015 (Doc. 1, Exhibit 6-2), stating that PRA would not respond to a dispute that it already resolved.

         D. Credit Reporting

         Between September 8, 2015, and August 16, 2016, PRA shared information regarding the debt with credit reporting agencies TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Each time it shared the information, PRA included a designation indicating that Cooper disputed the debt (Doc. 23, Exhibit 6). On August 16, 2016, PRA requested that the information be deleted from Cooper's credit report (Id. at ¶ 22).

         E. Dispute

         Cooper filed a complaint on August 15, 2016 (Doc. 1) with allegations as described above.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment will be granted if the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). There is no genuine issue of material fact when “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The Court must decide “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” In re Dollar Corp., 25 F.3d 1320, 1323 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). In doing so, the Court “must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Emp'rs Ins. of Wausau v. Petrol. Specialties, Inc., 69 F.3d 98, 101 (6th Cir. 1995).

         IV. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. ...


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