GARY D. NITZKIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
ROBERT M. CRAIG, also known as LAW OFFICES OF ROBERT M. CRAIG & ASSOCIATES, and GUARDIAN ALARM COMPANY OF MICHIGAN, Defendants-Appellees.
Oakland Circuit Court LC No. 2016-155993-AV
Before: Beckering, P.J., and M. J. Kelly and O'Brien, JJ.
Gary Nitzkin, appeals by leave granted the circuit
court's order affirming the district court's orders
granting summary disposition in favor of defendants, Guardian
Alarm Company of Michigan and Robert Craig, also known as Law
Offices of Robert M. Craig & Associates. For the reasons
stated in this opinion, we reverse and remand for further
October 2015, Nitzkin received a collection letter with the
letterhead of the "Law Offices of Robert M. Craig &
Associates." The letter indicated that he owed Guardian
$25.16, and it stated:
My client, Guardian Alarm Company, has turned the above
account over to me for collection. Unless the validity of
this debt is disputed in writing within thirty (30) days of
receipt of this notice, this debt will be assumed to be valid
by Guardian Alarm.
If this debt is disputed; or any portion thereof, you may
receive a verification of the debt or a copy of any court
judgment against you by notifying the undersigned in writing
at the above address of the disputed amount and requesting a
verification of the debt.
If the debt is owed to a creditor different than the original
creditor, you may obtain the name and address of the original
creditor by making a written request within thirty (30) days
of receipt of this notification.
Certainly, you can see the benefit of settling this dispute
in an amicable manner. We do not feel it was your intention
to allow this matter to escalate to the current situation.
Let's work together to resolve this matter to
This letter is being sent to you with the intent to collect a
debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
letter was purportedly written by "Joan Green," who
was identified on the letter as a legal assistant.
a debt-collection lawyer, believed that the letter was sent
in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(FDCPA), 15 USC 1692 et seq., and he filed a
complaint against Guardian, Craig,  and Green alleging several
violations of the Act. Following discovery, Guardian moved
for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and MCR
2.116(C)(10), asserting that because it was not a "debt
collector" as that term is defined by the FDCPA, it was
not subject to the requirements of the FDCPA. Craig also
moved for summary disposition. Like Guardian, he asserted
that he was not a "debt collector," so he could not
violate the FDCPA. Alternatively, he contended that even if
he had violated the FDCPA, his violation was excused under
the Act's "bona fide error" provision. The
district court granted Guardian's motion for summary
disposition, concluding that Guardian was a creditor, not a
debt collector. And, although it concluded that Craig was a
debt collector, the court stated that any violation of the
FDCPA was excused because there was no genuine issue of
material fact with regard to whether the bona fide error
defense was applicable. Nitzkin appealed to the circuit
court, which affirmed the district court and dismissed
REVIEW BY CIRCUIT COURT
STANDARD OF REVIEW
first argues that the circuit court applied the wrong
standard of review when it evaluated his appeal. Whether a
court applied the correct standard of review is a question of
law, which we review de novo on appeal. See Pierron v
Pierron, 282 Mich.App. 222, 243; 765 N.W.2d 345 (2009).
circuit court in this case stated near the end of its oral
ruling that it was "satisfied" that the district
court did not abuse its discretion when granting summary
disposition to Guardian and Craig. Challenges to a
court's decision to grant or deny summary disposition are
reviewed de novo. Barnard Mfg Co, Inc v Gates Performance
Engineering, Inc, 285 Mich.App. 362, 369; 775 N.W.2d 618
(2009). The mere fact that the court recited the wrong
standard is not dispositive, however. When it began its
ruling, the court stated that it was conducting a de novo
review. It also noted that its review of the case and the
briefs led it to its conclusion that summary disposition had
been properly granted in Guardian and Craig's favor.
Thus, although the court inadvertently recited the wrong
standard at the conclusion of its ruling, given that it
started with the correct standard and indicated that it had,
in fact, conducted a de novo review of the case, we discern
no reversible error.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
argues that the trial court erred by granting summary
disposition in favor of Craig and Guardian. He also asserts
that the trial court also erred by not granting summary
disposition in his favor under MR 2.116(I). We review de novo
a trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion for
summary disposition. Barnard Mfg Co, Inc, 285
Mich.App. at 369.
APPLICABILITY TO THE FDCPA TO GUARDIAN AND CRAIG
FDCPA does not apply to every attempt by a creditor to
collect a debt from a debtor. Instead, it applies when a
"debt collector" is attempting to collect a debt
from a "consumer." This is made clear in 15 USC
1692, where Congress explains that the purpose of the FDCPA
is "to eliminate abusive debt collection
practices by debt collectors, to insure that those
debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt
collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged, and
to promote consistent State action to protect
consumers against debt collection abuses."
(Emphasis added). "To further these ends, the FDCPA
'establishes certain rights for consumers whose debts are
placed in the hands of professional debt collectors for
collection.'" Vincent v The Money Store,
736 F.3d 88, 96 (CA 2, 2013), quoting DeSantis vComputer Credit, Inc, 269 F.3d 159 (CA 2,
2001). Thus, because ...