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Owens v. Equityexperts.Org, LLC

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

October 19, 2017

MELISSA OWENS Plaintiff,
v.
EQUITYEXPERTS.ORG, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. 18]

          HONORABLE VICTORIA A. ROBERTS JUDGE

         Melissa Owens (“Owens”), a condominium owner, filed a complaint against EquityExperts.org, LLC (“Equity Experts”), a collection agency. Owens alleges that Equity Experts wrongfully charged her its costs to collect her delinquent condominium association assessment fees, in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et al.

         Owens filed a motion for summary judgment (“Motion”). That motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         In June 2004, Owens accepted title to a condominium located within The Parks at Stonegate Pointe (“Stonegate Pointe”), a residential community. Stonegate Pointe was established pursuant to a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, which was amended in April 2003 (“Declaration”). The Declaration states that by accepting title, each owner agrees to pay to Stonegate Pointe Association (“Association”), assessment fees when due. The Declaration also states that the assessment, interest, costs of collection, court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees, constitute a lien on the condominium unit, and a personal obligation on the owner. Stonegate Pointe authorizes Equity Experts to charge delinquent owners collection costs.

         In February 2009, Equity Experts informed Owens that a lien had been placed on her condominium for nonpayment of assessment fees. In July 2012, Owens's condominium was sold in a foreclosure sale. By March 2013, Owens had paid off all obligations to the Association and the lien was released.

         In August 2013, Equity Experts informed Owens that another lien had been placed on her condominium; she owed $915 to the Association. Owens made payments directly to the Association, but in November 2013, Stonegate Pointe mailed Owens a letter explaining that collection fees were outstanding. In March 2015, Equity Experts mailed Owens another letter saying she owed Stonegate Pointe $2, 910. The letter stated that although Owens had paid her assessment fee each month, she failed to pay collection fees from 2013, payable to Equity Experts.

         Equity Experts sent Owens another letter in August 2015 saying that it was attempting to collect on a debt on behalf of Stonegate Pointe, and that it would proceed with foreclosure proceedings.

         Finally, in September 2015, Owens received a letter from the Association stating that she had a $50 credit in her account. However two weeks later, Equity Experts sent a letter saying that her account with the Association remained unpaid.

         Owens says she never agreed to pay collection fees to Equity Experts or the Association from 2013. She claims she is entitled to summary judgment because Equity Experts: 1) attempted to collect fees that she did not owe, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(A); 2) threatened to take action that it legally could not, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(5) and § 1692f(6); and 3) attempted to collect an amount not expressly authorized by agreement, in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1692f(1).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), “[t]he Court shall grant summary judgment 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.” The movant bears the initial burden to inform the Court of the basis for her motion, and must identify particular portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant satisfies her burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. A genuine issue of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Unsupported, conclusory statements are insufficient to establish a factual dispute to defeat summary judgment, as is the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position; the evidence must be such that a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Alexander v. CareSource, 576 F.3d 551, 560 (6th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

         In deciding a summary judgment motion, the Court “views the factual evidence and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” McLean v. 988011 Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The Court only needs to consider the cited materials, but it may consider other evidence in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court's function at the summary judgment stage “is not to weigh the evidence and determine the ...


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