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Green v. Monarch Recovery Management, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 24, 2014

EVA M. GREEN Individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated., Plaintiff,
v.
MONARCH RECOVERY MANAGEMENT, INC. a Pennsylvania corporation, DHC CONSULTING SERVICES, LLC a Maryland limited liability company, INTERIM CAPITAL GROUP, INC. an Indiana Corporation (Added per Amended Complaint of 5/23/13.), Defendants.

ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL

MARK J. DINSMORE, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Eva M. Green's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Compel Defendants to Comply with Discovery Obligations, filed on February 3, 2014. [Dkt. 74.] For the following reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the Plaintiff's motion to compel.

I. Background

This matter involves claims brought by Eva M. Green ("Plaintiff") alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). [Dkt. 1 at 1.] When Plaintiff fell behind on her credit card payments in 2005, CACH LLC and its lawyer debt collector made efforts to collect on her debt. [ Id. at 3.] Because of their collection efforts, Plaintiff brought an FDCPA case alleging misconduct, which settled in 2006. [ Id. ] At some point after the 2006 settlement, Defendant DHC Consulting Services ("DHC") purchased or obtained Plaintiff's same alleged debt, and Defendant Monarch Recovery Management ("Monarch") directly sent Plaintiff, not her attorney on the matter, a collection letter on February 8, 2013. [ Id. at 4.]

In response to Defendant Monarch's letter, Plaintiff filed claims on March 13, 2013 against Defendants Monarch and DHC for three counts of FDCPA violations [Dkt. 1 at 4-6], which were amended on May 23, 2013 to include class action allegations and to add Interim Capital Group, Inc. ("Interim") as a Defendant [Dkt. 22 at 1, 7-8]. Plaintiff then served her discovery requests on May 31, 2013, to which requests Defendants did not respond until November 1, 2013. [Dkt. 74 at 2.] On January 16, 2014, after multiple discovery conferences, Defendant Monarch supplemented its response regarding its Bona Fide Error defense, referencing an Excel spreadsheet.[1] [Dkt. 74 at 3.] Plaintiff was not satisfied with Defendants' responses and filed their Motion to Compel Defendants to Comply with Discovery Obligations on February 3, 2014. [ Id. ] Oral argument was held on March 10, 2014, and the Court now considers Plaintiff's motion to compel.

II. Discussion

Rule 37 permits a party to file a motion to compel a required disclosure upon "evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a). A required disclosure, as defined by Rule 26, includes information that a party "may use to support its claims [or defenses]." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 (a)(1)(A). When there is good cause, "the court may order discovery of any matter relevant" to the issues of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 (b)(1) (emphasis added). However, information that is not relevant to a claim or defense is not discoverable. Id. This Court has "broad discretion in discovery matters, " including the consideration of a motion to compel discovery. Packman v. Chicago Tribune Co., 267 F.3d 628, 646 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Kalis v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 231 F.3d 1049, 1056 (7th Cir. 2000)). Plaintiff alleges several deficiencies regarding Defendants' responses to Plaintiff's discovery requests, and the Court will address such allegations herein.

A. Bona Fide Error Discovery

In defense of Plaintiff's allegations against them, Defendants Monarch and Interim both raise a bona fide error affirmative defense, pursuant to the FDCPA [Dkt. 74 at 2], which requires that the violation "(1) was unintentional, (2) resulted from a bona fide error, and (3) occurred despite the debt collector's maintenance of procedures reasonably adapted to avoid such error, " Ruth v. Triumph Partnerships, 577 F.3d 790, 803 (7th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, Plaintiff addressed this defense in her Request for Production (RFP) 16 by requesting each Defendant to produce "[a]ll documents that refer to or support or diminish any affirmative defense [it] assert[s]" and in her Interrogatory 17 by asking each Defendant to "[s]tate the factual basis for any affirmative defense [it] assert[s] and identify all persons, by name, last known address, and telephone number, with knowledge of these facts." [ Id. at 2-3.]

In response, Defendant Monarch eventually provided the Plaintiff with supplemental interrogatory responses. [ See Dkt. 78 at 1.] The supplemented interrogatory responses state, in relevant part, that:

[Interrogatory 16 Answer] Monarch received a placement file from DHC Consulting Services, Inc. (DHC). DHC assigns accounts to Monarch electronically by sending Monarch an excel spreadsheet that includes a mixture of portfolios and a mixture of account owners in one excel spreadsheet. Some of the accounts are directly owned by DHC and some are not directly owned by DHC. All of the accounts are assigned to Monarch for collection by DHC. One of the columns in the spreadsheet gives the Owner information. In February [of 2013], Monarch received a spreadsheet of accounts and some accounts were owned by DHC, some accounts were owned by Interim, and some accounts were owned by entities not parties to this litigation.
During the process of loading the accounts to our system, a step in the instructions was missed and the accounts were loaded to the wrong DHC client number, which showed DHC Consulting Services, LLC as the creditor. By not separating out the Interim accounts, those accounts were loaded with the other DHC owned accounts....
[Interrogatory 17 Answer] For affirmative defense 1, defendant states that it has procedures in place to identify the proper creditor on all mailings. Defendant received a referral of accounts from DHC. Those accounts were incorrectly input into Monarch's system as owned by "DHC Consulting Services, LLC." Monarch has reasonable procedures in place to ensure the proper creditor is identified. See response to interrogatory number 16. All letters incorrectly identifying DHC as the creditor were part of the same batch of letters, sent to Monarch's letter vender on the same date, and thus the result of a single, isolated incident.

[Dkt. 78-1 at 3-4 (emphasis added).] Defendant Monarch then, the same day that Defendants' response to Plaintiff's motion to compel was filed, provided the Plaintiff with a PDF version of the referenced spreadsheet, pursuant to Plaintiff's RFP 16. [Dkt. 78 at 3-4.] The PDF was over one thousand pages long when printed, only fifty pages of which were not ...


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