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Johnson v. Enhanced Recovery Co., LLC

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

January 17, 2017

ERIN JOHNSON, on behalf of plaintiff and a class, Plaintiff,
v.
ENHANCED RECOVERY COMPANY, LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PHILIP P. SIMON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE

         Erin Johnson claims that the dunning letter she received from Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC (“ERC”), a debt collector, was false or misleading in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. ERC seeks dismissal of the case, arguing that the letter is plainly neither false nor misleading. The Seventh Circuit has instructed that whether a debt collection letter is misleading under the FDCPA turns on questions of fact. Dismissal is permitted in only the most extreme cases, when no reasonable consumer could be misled. Johnson's complaint plausibly shows that ERC's letter could mislead reasonable consumers. So ERC's motion to dismiss will be denied.

         Background

         ERC sent Johnson a collection letter dated April 21, 2016. The letter alleges that Johnson didn't pay her Sprint bill, so Sprint contracted with ERC to collect the debt. The letter offers Johnson three options to pay less than the full amount allegedly due. The second page of the letter appears to contain notices required by federal and various states' laws. (DE 1-1 at 1-2.) Johnson attached the letter to her complaint. (DE 1-1, referred to in the complaint as “Exhibit A.”) It is therefore “part of the [complaint] for all purposes.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). Rather than just looking to the plaintiff's description of the letter, I will go straight to the horse's mouth and refer directly to the letter. See, e.g., Bogie v. Rosenberg, 705 F.3d 603, 609 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Johnson filed her complaint on July 12, 2016, alleging that the April 21 letter violated the FDCPA by making false or misleading statements. (DE 1, hereinafter cited as “Compl.”) Johnson seeks class certification of her suit. (DE 4.) The Magistrate Judge temporarily stayed class certification briefing. (DE 8, 14, 20.) I subsequently denied the motion without prejudice to refiling because it was getting stale without briefing. (DE 26.) So for the present, the party plaintiff in this case is Johnson as an individual.

         ERC's letter to Johnson says, in relevant part:

Our records indicate that your balance with Sprint remains unpaid; therefore your account has been placed with ERC for collection efforts. We are willing to reduce your outstanding balance by offering discounted options.
Option 1: Pay the settlement of $875.78, please remit by May
26, 2016.
Option 2: Pay the settlement of $930.51, payable in 2 monthly payments of $465.26.
Option 3: Pay the settlement of $985.25, payable in 3 monthly payments of $328.42.
We are not obligated to renew this offer.
This letter serves as notification that your delinquent account may be reported to the national credit bureaus.
Payment of the offered settlement amount will stop collection activity on this matter. We will inform Sprint once the payment(s) is/are posted. Payment of the settlement amount will not restore your service with Sprint. If you wish to establish service with Sprint at a future date, the remaining balance must be ...

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