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Swelnis v. Universal Fidelity L.P.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

April 17, 2014

CHRISTINE SWELNIS, on behalf of herself and a class, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSAL FIDELITY L.P., TERRY W. SIMONDS, and TWS INTERESTS, LLC, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL R. CHERRY, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Net Worth Information [DE 33], filed on November 25, 2013, and Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Documents [DE 41], filed on December 31, 2013. The Court provides some background and then considers each in turn.

I. Background

This putative class action law suit alleges that Defendants are liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq. (FDCPA), for using form letters that failed to included legally required information. Defendant Universal Fidelity has a net worth of $34, 000, and, under the FDCPA, the maximum recovery for the putative class is hence only $340. See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(1)(B). Plaintiff has, however, joined two other defendants-Simonds and TWS-presumably in the hopes of getting a larger recovery than would otherwise be possible.

Simonds and TWS filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on November 19, 2013. District Court Judge Jon DeGuilio stayed the briefing on that motion pending a ruling on a related Motion to Strike, which this Court decides today (thus lifting the stay) in a separate Opinion and Order. The Court notes for the sake of clarity that Judge DeGuilio is no longer assigned to this case because the parties consented on February 20, 2014, to have this case referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 626(c). This Court thus has jurisdiction to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case.

II. Motion to Compel Net Worth Information

The Motion for Partial Summary Judgment contends that Defendants TWS and Simonds are not debt collectors and thus cannot be held liable under the FDCPA. The Motion to Compel Net Worth information, which seeks financial information from Defendants TWS and Simonds, appears to turn on the same issue. Rather than decide something that may be rendered moot by a ruling on the pending Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, the Court takes the Motion to Compel Net Worth Information under advisement pending this Court's ruling on Summary Judgment.

III. Motion to Compel Documents

Plaintiff served Defendants with interrogatories and document requests asking in relevant part for Defendants' internal training and compliance materials, the exact size of the putative class, and the names and addresses of potential class members. Defendants declined to provide this material, and Plaintiff brought this motion to compel. The Court considers each issue in turn.

A. Training Materials

Plaintiff's Interrogatory No. 9 and Document Request Nos. 4-6, 8, and 11 each seek information-specifically: training manuals and other relevant documents-that relate to Defendants' Affirmative Defense of bona fide error. Defendants objected to turning over this material without the entry of a mutually agreed upon confidentiality order. But, as Plaintiff points out, the parties have already asked for and received a confidentiality order from this Court. Defendants essentially concede this point, stating in their Response that they will produce all relevant portions of the documents sought by Plaintiff.

Plaintiff is not completely satisfied, however, representing that there is a disc entitled "FDCPA Essentials for Collectors" that Defendants have told her about but have yet to hand over. The Court finds the Plaintiff's request well taken, and orders Defendants to turn over to Plaintiff all relevant and non-privileged materials that are responsive to Plaintiff's requests but have yet to be handed over.

B. Potential Class Member Information

Plaintiff served Defendants with discovery requests seeking the size of the putative class along with the names and addresses of potential class members. Defendants refused to answer these requests, contending that they were overly broad, premature, and not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. They also objected that the requests ran afoul of the ...


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