United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
K. Majzoub, Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
J. MICHELSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Bell filed this lawsuit because Northland Group sent Bell a
debt collection letter for a debt he settled several years
ago. (R. 1.) Even though Northland Group ceased to pursue
collection or otherwise contact Bell after Bell notified
Northland Group that the debt had been settled, Bell now sues
pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA),
15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and its Michigan
counterpart, the Michigan Occupational Code (MOC), M.C.L.
§ 339.901 et seq. (R. 1.) Northland Group
has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow,
Northland Group's motion is denied.
October 2011, Bell received a letter from Kohl's
confirming that his Kohl's credit card debt had been
settled. (R. 13, PID 94.)
six years later, in July 2017, Bell received a letter from
Northland Group attempting to collect the debt, stating that
Capital One, the entity that issued the Kohl's credit
card, authorized Northland Group to collect the debt. (R.
12-3.) Shortly after, Bell sent Northland Group a letter
stating that the debt was settled in 2011 and asking
Northland Group to send him the authorization it received to
collect the debt. (R. 13-3.) Northland Group did not send
Bell the authorization, but it did cease all collection
actions against Bell. (R. 12, PID 58.)
claims that Northland Group's attempt to collect on
non-existent debt violated three different provisions of the
FDCPA: 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(2)(a), §1692e(10), and
§1692f(1). (R. 1, PID 4.) Bell also asserts that this
same action violated two provisions of the MOC: Michigan
Compiled Laws § 339.915(e) and § 339.915(f)(ii).
(R. 1, PID 5.) Lastly, he alleges that Northland Group
violated Michigan Compiled Laws §339.915(q) by failing
to implement a procedure designed to prevent a violation by
an employee. (R. 1, PID 6.)
judgment is proper “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A fact is material only if it might affect the outcome
of the case under the governing law. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). When
reviewing Northland Group's motion for summary judgment,
the court must view the evidence, and any reasonable
inferences drawn from the evidence, in the light most
favorable to Bell. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citations
omitted); Redding v. St. Edward, 241 F.3d 530, 531
(6th Cir. 2001).
Group asserts that, because it relied in good faith on
Capital One's information, it did not violate the FDCPA.
Because it asserts that it did not violate the FDCPA,
Northland Group stresses that it is not relying on a bona
fide error defense which allows debt collectors to avoid
liability for a violation if it can show the violation was a
result of a bona fide error. Northland Group's
argument does not persuade.
collector can violate provisions of the FDCPA,
including § 1692e and § 1692f, even if it relies in
good faith on the original creditor. The Sixth Circuit, along
with others, holds that the FDCPA establishes a
strict-liability regime. See Kline v. Mortgage Electronic
Registration Systems, Inc., 704 Fed.Appx. 451 (6th Cir.
2017) (“[The FDCPA] is a strict liability statute
unless a debt collector can show that the alleged violation
was unintentional and resulted from a bona fide
error”); Gamby v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC,
462 Fed.Appx. 552, 556-57 (6th Cir. 2012) (adopting the
reasoning for why the FDCPA requires strict liability in
finding that the parallel Michigan Collection Practice Act
also imposes strict liability); Kistner v. Law Offices of
Michael P. Margelesky, LLC, 518 F.3d 433, 438 (6th Cir.
2008) (“[The FDCPA] imposes strict liability for
violations. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a). An exception to strict
liability exists only where a debt collector commits a
violation resulting from a ‘bona fide error.' 15
U.S.C. § 1692k(c).”). Courts have so held because
of the statute's explicit bona fide error
defense. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(c); Clark v.
Capital Credit & Collection Servs., Inc., 460 F.3d
1162, 1175-76 (9th Cir. 2006); Kline, 704 Fed.Appx.
at 457. Under the bona fide error defense, a debt
collector that violated the statute can avoid liability if it
can show that the violation was not intentional and was a
result of a bona fide error. 15 U.S.C. §
1692k(c); Kline, 704 Fed.Appx. at 457 n.5. Because
Congress included that defense, requiring that a violation
itself “be knowing or intentional needlessly renders
superfluous § 1692k(c).” Clark, 460 F.3d
§ 1692k(c) and the precedent above, Northland Group
maintains that, because it relied in good faith on the
information it received from Capital One, it cannot have
violated § 1692e and § 1692f of the FDCPA. As
support, Northland Group cites Clark, 460 F.3d at
1173-74 and Rudek v. Frederick J. Hanna & Assocs.
P.C., No. 08-288, 2009 WL 385804 (E.D. Tenn. Feb. 17,
2009). But Rudek and the section of
Clark that it cited concern what is sufficient for a
collection agency to comply with § 1692g. See
Clark, 460 F.3d at 1173-74; Rudek, 2009 WL
385804, at *2. Section 1692g concerns what information the
collection agency has to provide the consumer if the consumer
disputes the debt; it does not concern false or misleading
representations or unfair practices. See 15 U.S.C.
§§ 1692e and 1692f. Northland Group's argument
that these cases show that good faith reliance on the
creditors likewise puts debt collectors in compliance with
the rest of the FDCPA rests on a misreading of the cases.
See Healy v. TransUnion LLC, No. C09-0956, 2011 WL
1900149, at *8 (W.D. Wash. May 18, 2011) (finding that the
very same argument put forth by the defendant was based upon
a misreading of Clark, 460 F.3d at 1174);
Gonzalez v. Cullimore, No., 20160373, 2018 WL
1057542, at * 6-7 (Utah Feb. 26, 2018) (finding that
Bleich v. The Revenue Maximization Grp., Inc., 233
F.Supp.2d 496 (E.D.N.Y. 2002), a case Northland Group relies
on, “incorrectly applied § 1692g's standard to
§ 1692e-an action the Clark court expressly
precluded.”); Clark, 460 F.3d at 1176-77
(explaining that, with respect to § 1692e, “if a
debt collector reasonably relies on the debt reported by the
creditor, the debt collector will not be liable for any
errors” because of the bona fide error
affirmative defense and not because the debt collector did
not commit a violation of the FDCPA). Because Northland
Group's only argument necessarily confuses what is
sufficient to comply with §1692g with the rest of the
statute, it cannot show that it did not violate the FDCPA as
a matter of law when it sent Bell a collection letter falsely
representing that he owed on a settled Kohl's debt. And
because Northland Group disclaims reliance on the bona
fide error defense, the Court cannot ...